When Devon arrived home, he found sitting in his small apartment, a strange looking man with green skin, brown hair, dressed in a pair of black tights and a leather vest which showed off his warty green wrinkled chest. Devon let out a little scream of shock, “Oh, calm down; you knew I was coming,” snapped the troll. Standing, he bowed with a flourish adding, “I am Narod, here to serve you.”
Devon stood for a moment with his mouth agape, still in shock, finally recovering he announced, “I need something to drink, would you like one as well? I wish I had something strong.” Not waiting for an answer, he headed across the room to his kitchenette. Finding two bottles of wine, he popped the cork on both as he looked for wine glasses. Stealing another peak of his guest, he shook his head and chose two large tea glasses instead. He filled them using almost all of both bottles, then walked back, handing one to his visitor, “So what are you?”
Slowly Narod growled, “Not sure I like the way you phrased that. I’m Narod. But as to what you’re asking, I’m part Troll and part Elf.”
Sitting down across from the troll, Devon nods his approval, “well I guess that makes sense then. You’re here to do what, exactly?”
Taking a tentative and then approving sip, Narod added, “This is good. Have you more of it? This might be a long night.”
“Really? Are we going to chat about wine? But yes, I have three more bottles.”
“I’d suggest you drink up because you won't in the morning.”
At first, Devon looked confused, but then caught the joke, “Ohhhh, because I won't be here then, right?”
“Good, you’re not as dumb as you look.” Rubbing his hands together, “Ok, let's get down to work. I’m going to walk you through the different aspects of your transition to Antwa. As we work through the list, you’ll need to make decisions. Rest assured; these are the same questions that Eluard is asking your friend. Let's get your race out of the way; that’ll be the foundation of most everything else.”
Never letting his eyes stray from his visitor Devon added, “wait, can you give me a bullet list of what you plan on doing so I can better understand the entire process before we start to work on specific parts?”
“Nice. First, as I said, we’ll decide your race, then your physical appearance, followed by your skills, first combat and then secondary skills, such as trade. Then after we’re finished with that, we’ll go over what to expect when you wake up, the power structure of your pairing and then finally the disclaimers, so to speak.”
Devon only nodded; he really still had no idea what was going to happen.
“There are hundreds of species on Antwa, but for simplicity, we’ve narrowed it down to five from which to choose; Common, Elf (Fire, Earth, Water, Sky, Dark, and Light), Satyrs, Talfars, Kharvan,” explained Narod.
Interrupting, Devon said, “I’ve heard of the first three, well not the different types of elves, but the last two are new to me.”
“Yes, they’re unique to this world. Are there any at this point you would rule out?”
“No…well Common, which is like a human, right?”
“We can rule out Common then. I’ve been human all my life. Give me a brief description of the others. You can also skip Satyrs since I’d bet money that’s what Matt chooses.”
“Fine, let’s do Elves first. This will, in some ways, introduce you as well to the next choice, that being your skills. The sub-race of elf will affect the kinds of magic you’ll be able to perform, as well as your physical appearance. The physical looks for the six classes are all very different. I’ll explain the extremes; but each sub-race can be anything between the basic humanoid shape with pointed ears and a thin, wiry frame, which is the standard Elf, to the full characteristics of their sub-classifications.”
“This sounds like it’s going to get complicated,” commented Devon.
“It can be, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Fire Elves are red skinned, tall, skinny and specialize in fire magic. Their skins can be anything from pink to a deep dark red, and they have limited immunity to heat and flames. Earth Elves are the most extreme. They vary from the standard to what is called an Ent, which is basically a living tree. Picture a humanoid with extra appendages for roots, branches, even their hair which can be vines. So closely are they tied to nature that their appearance, like the surrounding foliage, changes with the seasons. There aren’t many Earth Elves in the cities; they tend to hide in the forest and away from other humanoid creatures. They’re magic is nature oriented. Water Elves – or Nymphs/Merfolk again fall into various sub-classes. Nymphs are very reclusive and tend to live near water whereas, of course, Merfolk need to live in water, which would significantly limit your ability to explore your new world. Next are Air or Sky Elves, which are sort of the standard race of elves on Antwa. Their skin tone is from normal to a slightly blue tint, and their magic tends to deal with the manipulation of the mind and physical objects. Finally, the last two are more obscure, Dark elves deal with necromancy and death magic and as expected their skin varies from light shades of grey to pitch black. Light elves are the followers of The Father and their magics tend towards healing and restorative magic exclusively. These final two types, both dark and light, are rare.”
Shaking his head, Devon says, “My God, that’s a lot to consider.”
“That’s just the Elves. Another note about the indigenous elves, they also tend to be aloof, self-serving, and to put it plainly, are often assholes. Talfars are bull-like creations, big bulky with horns and dark brown leather-like skin…”
“Next...,” barked Devon.
“I had a feeling that one wasn’t for you. They’re big brutish creatures but great if you need a drinking buddy. Lastly, are Kharvan, they offer the most flexibility since their shapeshifters, and I mean fully shapeshifters.” Seeing Devon’s eyebrows go up, Narod quickly added, “I saw that look. We’ll be giving you moderately high-level of abilities as to your skills. When it comes to shifting, that isn’t something we can instill from the start. If you choose Kharvan, you’ll have to learn how to shift just like a young Kharvans does naturally.”
“Ok, that makes sense.” Sitting back thinking, he finally looks up, “Two things. First, why don’t they offer trolls, like you?”
“Look at me; it saves me having to listen to people make rude remarks. Remember the mole threat, I’ve done it,” he said as they laughed. “Next?”
“Which would you suggest?”
“Well, what do you want to do?”
“I mean the Water Elves are out for the reasons mentioned. The Common and Talfars just don’t interest me, so that leaves either Elves and Kharvan. I have to say Kharvan seem the most interesting. I don’t mind the idea of learning how to use my abilities. To be honest, that’s part of the process I’m looking forward to.”
“Then it sounds like you’ve made your decision. The next question is what you want your base appearance to be. This is the default shape you assume when not shifted. It can be pretty much anything. Since you liked the idea of elves, let's start there. First, long or short pointed ears?”
Smiling, Devon sat forward, “Now we’re getting somewhere. Small pointy ears, I think. This is going to be hard since I’ve no idea what I’m talking about.”
“If you’d like to see the changes as we make them, stand up and strip. Then I can manifest the modifications as we do them.”
Devon gave the troll a sideways glance as he slowly rose from his chair. “Are you sure this is necessary, I mean…this isn’t some attempt to get a cheap thrill is it?”
Narod laughed and ran his hands over his body, “I’m a troll remember? I think I look good; you, pasty, non-warty, colorless creatures are quite repulsive in my eyes. Don’t worry about me enjoying this.”
Devon stood and started to remove his clothing. He first took off his shirt and then the tight compression top which held his breasts against his chest. Narod’s eyes began to grow wider as Devon unbuttoned his jeans, removing them then his boxers. Devon heard Narod bark and looked up to find the troll's eyes so wide they threatened to tear the skin, “You’re a female!”
Devon’s face turned red as she collapsed into the chair pulling his clothes up to cover his body, “I thought you knew?”
“How would I know that! Wait...if you’re female why do you look male?”
Sitting with his head down and quiet for a long time Devon tried to decide how to answer the troll’s question. Finally, with tears brimming, Devon explained, “I was born female but...I don’t know…ever since I was old enough to understand the differences, I’ve known something about how I was born was wrong. I know this...”, motioning down to his body, “says I’m female, but this isn’t right. I don’t know how else to explain it; I was just born in the wrong skin.”
Narod took a drink and smiled at the young human with what could’ve been mistaken as a kind look, “I can fully understand. Trolls aren’t born with an assigned sex; we decide when we become an adult.”
“You decide? How do you choose? What about your sexual organs?”
“We’re born with both, male and female organs. Just before we become adults we go through a change, I think your world calls it puberty. Until that time, children are encouraged to explore their proclivities, their feelings. During this period, the parents and elders help the child understand the differences and watch for any indicators as to how they’re leaning. Then when the time comes, in a transition ritual, we have sex with another who’s in the role of the gender we don’t wish to become. After that time, the other parts, which were only cosmetic, fade away and we become our chosen gender.”
“You have to have sex with someone to decide?”
“For us, it’s tribal custom. We have people whose role within our community is to help guide the children through their formative years, and eventually, bring them into their gender.” Pausing, Narod added, “I can see how such a mistake could be hard. As I understand it, your world is very rigid and doesn’t welcome such variations. I think that’s in part because you’re a non-magical world with only one race, humanoid. If your world had the diversity of most, I don’t think it’d be as much of an issue. Do you have to hide this difference in your society?”
“It’s slowly getting better. To be honest with you, we tend to keep our true selves hidden so we don’t have to explain it all the time. All my friends and family know, but as for the world as a whole, it's just easier to dress and act like I know I am. But even that is hard. In some ways, it feels like I’m living the life I should’ve been born with, but at other times, just because I don’t get to be honest about who I am, it also feels like I’m living a lie.” Pausing and wiping the tears from his cheek, “but then I guess I am, or more accurately my body is forcing me into a lie that I must go along with so I can be left alone to live some semblance of the life I want to lead.”
They sat in silence, sipping their drinks as Devon sobbed. Finally, Narod said in an upbeat voice, “well stand up, and let’s get on with this. I was going to say before you stripped and shocked the hell out of me, that I’d change your body to match the standard elven body and then we’d work from there. But based on the new information, I guess the first thing we should fix is that,” he said pointing to Devon’s genitals.
Devon stood with a blank expression, then moved his gaze down to where the troll was pointing, “change what?”
“I guess you want all of that...” making a circular motion with his hands, “gone and standard issue boy parts installed instead?”
Devon put his hand over his mouth and stared at the troll in wide eyes wonder, then his knees gave out, and he sank to the floor. “I can't do this with you like that,” grumbled Narod.
Looking up, a little annoyed Devon growled, “Give me a second you warty green goblin.” Slowly standing, looking nervous Devon turned to face the troll, lowered his arms, down and out to the side. “How is this?”
“The warty green part was good, but no need to get insulting by calling me a goblin. As for the pose, it’ll work, I’ll make this quick, you humans’ sort of creep me out. Ok let's see, now just so you know this is what is called a guise, I’m not changing your body. We cannot risk doing that while you’re still in this world.”
Before Devon could respond, he was floating inside a form of himself. The guise matched exactly except now there was male genitalia extending from between his legs. As he stared in amazement tears began to roll down his cheeks as he saw himself for the first time the way he’d always known he really was. Narod snapped his fingers loudly pulling Devon’s attention back to the moment, “Ok, first, do you want to be taller or shorter?”
“I like my height.”
“Fine. More or fewer muscles?”
“A few more muscles, not overly.” They tried several variations until Devon exclaimed, “Perfect. That’s more like a perfect swimmer’s body, not these new types.”
“Fine, what else. Your face, hair, body hair, any other minor tweaks?”
“I can't see behind me.”
With a wave, the guise moved to the left, no longer covering Devon’s body, as it became less transparent. With a bit of sadness, again seeing his old form Devon walked around the construct. “A bit more ass…yes, that’s good, it's fuller and more rounded. Hair, just a bit of a treasure trail and some on my legs…perfect.” Finally standing in front of the guise Devon cocked a sideways grin, “can the balls be longer, not too much, and make the cock an inch longer, soft and about half again as round.” As he saw the changes, Devon nodded his approval.
“So that’s it?” asked Narod.
“Yes, that’ll do nicely; when can I have it?” Looking over excited.
“When you awake in the new world,” Narod answered as he waved as the construct evaporated in a cloud of smoke. Devon watched as what had been his new body drifted up and away like the delicate smoke from an incense burner. “You can get dressed now. We’ll deal with your skills next.”
Devon pulled his clothes back on and sat in his favorite chair, “So what choices do I have?”
“You can have up to two skills, one primary and one secondary.”
“I want to use magic; is there magic?”
Narod laughed loudly, “Yes there’s magic. What kind of magic would you like? You’re already going to be a shapeshifter, but that won’t count as one of your two skills.”
“I thought it would. I want to be a good, old fashion, robe-wearing magic user and maybe, I don’t know… I don’t like armor so much; I want to be more stealthy.” Pausing and thinking, “I know what Matt likes, and there’s no way he’s going to pick a healing class, but we’re going to need one, right? Does any of this help?”
Narod nodded, “give me a moment. I think you should consider a druid with maybe a bard as your secondary skill. How does that sound?”
Narod sat back in his chair laughing; he could see the smile on Devon’s face, “That sounds perfect. Why does this process remind me of rolling a character in D&D?”
“We tend to use that system as our point of reference; it helps the people of your world, being non-magical, to better understand the concepts.”
“That makes sense, the D&D part. As for your suggestion, it’s basically who I am already with an added magical component. So if that’s it, am I done, can I go to bed now? I want to wake up and get underway?”
Narod looked suspiciously at the young human, “You seem to be taking all of this very well, are you sure you understand, or for that matter, believe what’s about to happen to you?”
Devon shrugged, “I don't know if I believe it yet or not, but there’s a troll sitting in front of me, and I just saw what you called a guise of my new body. It’s either real, or I’m having an elaborate kick-ass dream, either way, I’ll wake up and know the truth in the morning. Until then, why not go with the flow and enjoy the process and the fantasy for as long as I have it. Just in case it is a dream.”
“That’s probably a healthy way to approach the whole process. As for knowing soon, you most certainly will. All that remains is the “the lecture” we give all companions.”
“Companions? Well get on with it...what do I need to know?” Sitting forward Devon rubbed his hands together looking excited. “Oh, and you’re not leaving till we finish this last bottle. If I wake up tomorrow someplace else; it’s alcohol abuse to let the wine go undrunk.”
“See that’s why they sent me to you. I like the way you think.” As they popped the last cork, Narod began the lecture, “Understand you’re accompanying Matsugo. What this means is you two shouldn’t, I’m not saying can't, but you shouldn’t part company. He’s the principal person, call it a party leader if that helps, though how much he plays that up is based on his personality which you know better than I do. When you awake, you’ll have clothing suitable for your class, a simple weapon, some gold, but most importantly, your book. The contents of the book will only be visible to you. It’ll have all the information you should need, call it a player’s handbook. You’ll already know your spells; though the book will have them listed, as well. Only the basic ones, the ones they teach at the academies. The more fancy and complicated spells require you to grow into your skills or regrow into them, according to how you want to look at it. Most advanced spells and skills are discovered, through research and practice.”
“So, there is spell creation?”
“Oh yes, magic is an art. The more practice and training you put into your studies, the more skilled you’ll become. Let’s see how I can explain it. Spells are nothing but the channeling of power through a combination of external and internal forces. Once you start to understand the intricacies of your class, you can begin to learn more advanced spells, as well as invent your own. It should be your constant quest to always be on the lookout for documents which will help you better understand and expand your abilities. In your D&D world, this would be called leveling. It's just a capacity to get better at what you do and as you do you will learn how to use the more complicated and delicate forces. Do you understand so far?”
“So far I’m good. It’s starting to sound more like I imagined, complicated,” answered Devon. “Now you said I’d know spells? I’ll be ready to use them immediately, right?”
“Yes and no. Imagine it like this, once you knew how to do something, then took a whole lot of years off and never did it. You still understand how it works, how to cast your spells or use your weapons, but you’re rusty, so the first few attempts might not go a bit astray.”
“Astray? Astray? It sounds like you’re saying I could blow myself up!” barked Devon in horror, his voice rising with each word.
“Remember the balls there boy, drop the shock a couple of octaves, and you’ll be fine. As for blowing yourself up, if that’s your intent, then I’m guessing you could. You’d have to try pretty hard though.”
“So you’re just going to throw us in the wild and hope for the best?” scowled Devon before adding, “and don’t give me that “ball” shit, I’ve heard Matsugo, who has balls the size of melons, make cats cringe with the notes he can hit.”
“Fair enough. As to throwing you in the wild, no. We’re putting you about two days from a medium sized city, near a cave. While there, I suggest you practice, get used to casting as well as just living a simpler life.” Taking a deep sip of his wine letting Devon absorb all he was being told. Narod adding, “Finally, you’re not divinely guided, once you wake up in the morning there will never again be an interaction between you and us. Don’t think that if you get in a spot, you can just yell for help, and someone will show up to save you. I have, in my time, seen groups like yours go to their new world and live to become the dominant rulers of its realms. I have also seen them die in their first interaction, in the first city, because they were cocky. You’re you; you’ve been chosen due to your skills. The two of you selected for your collective abilities, learn to use them and trust each other. You’re a team now.”
Finishing another glass, Devon shrugged, a bit drunk, “Sounds like what you’re telling me is to go to bed so I can wake up and start living my new life. I’ll still be me, and to use my head.”
“Again, you got it in one. I think you two will do very well. If there is nothing else…” Narod stood finishing the last of his wine, “…I’ll be off, and you need to get some rest.” As Devon stood Narod walked over and patted him on the back “Safe travels young one, I think they’ve chosen well this time, and may you two have a life full of adventures and rewards.”
Narod vanished in a foul-smelling poof of green smoke. Devon was now alone in the dimly lit room of a house he knew so well. He tried to move, but his feet wouldn’t cooperate. Closing his eyes, he calmed his mind. He wasn’t a religious person by any means, but he did have faith, in nature, in himself, and in those around him.
His thoughts drifted to Matsugo. He was there in his house probably feeling the same feelings. Devon could only assume his meeting was over as well. He hoped Matt was alright; this would be harder for his friend than it would be for him, he thought.
With careful and deliberate
intention, he finally lifted one foot…then the other. He walked around the
room, running his fingers along the things, that soon, would no longer be a
part of his life. He didn’t realize until he was there, that his random musings
had led him to his bedroom door. He reached down and turned the knob; it
opened, and he looked at the bed. What had always been a spot of rest at the
end of the day was now a vehicle into the unknown. He stepped over the
threshold and took his clothes off, folding them neatly, as he always did,
setting them in the chair, as he always did. Walking over he pulled back the
covers and with great care crawled into bed. He rested his head on his pillow
and closed his eyes...