Have you ever seen a cat wake up after a twelve hour nap and then yawn? What does that mean? They can’t still be tired can they? I’ve been a cat for a while now and I still don’t know how much sleep they actually need. I could easily sleep all day if I let myself, but I never really feel truly tired even if I’m awake most of the time. I didn’t sleep last night on account of this suspiciously good campsite and it’s obvious status as a trap but I feel fine this morning. As a human I make a shit sentry, but let me tell you with cat nightvision, cat ears, and a cat nose you can have a fine little guard. Too bad cats can’t be trained to do that. You can train dogs fairly well to be watch animals but the fatal flaw there is that deep down they like people and want to be friendly to them – which can be exploited to get around their training. Cats on the other hand are naturally suspicious, they’re not going to give someone they don’t know any opportunity to befriend them.
The other thing that makes dogs good but not great watch beasts is that dogs aren’t really that vicious unless you really mistreat them. Even the best trained guard dog is content to chase off an intruder nipping at their heels as they run, in their soft doggy hearts they don’t really want to hurt anyone. Cats of course don’t have this issue. They’ll happily claw your face off if they feel like it. What I’m saying is that if you could train a tiger to be a guardian that would really be something. Although I suppose they’d requite a lot of food so maybe that’s a downside. Maybe a watch leopard would work better.
Despite my apprehension there was no midnight troll attack or a flight of mischievous broom-witches hurling flames at us, the night passed without incident and soon enough we were tromping through the undergrowth again.
“How do you know where you’re going? None of you seem like woodsy types, I don’t see anyone looking for tracks or anything.”
Rubast answered from the head of the column “I have a pretty good memory for these sorts of things. I rarely get lost when going to some place I’ve been before.”
“That would be nice, I seem to get lost regularly whenever I try to go cross country. Is that some elf thing?”
Kemgrad’s voice came from behind “Don’t listen to that liar, he couldn’t find his way into his own pants without using magic. He leaves an arcane mark on places of interest like this so he can find his way back to them later with a spell.”
“I do not, that’s not even how magic works!”
This was clearly an argument they had had many times before. I tuned it out pretty quickly. The only excitement that morning was Kemgrad stumbling to an old hunter’s trap of some kind and getting his leg pinned. Cladarielle and Pesh were able to pry him out and Rubast used his magic to heal his mashed ankle. Rubast didn’t even appear to consider letting him suffer as a way to win their argument about how he’s able to find his way around. If I were able to heal people you better believe they’d be kissing my ass if they wanted me to help them out. After lunch we came on the ruins – it looked like it had once been a small community with maybe a dozen crude stone buildings, which of course were mostly tumbled down. What no one had mentioned on the way here though was the skeleton of a colossal snake that wound its way through and around the broken stones. I tell you it had to be two hundred feet long if it was a foot and the head was the size of an ox.
“I think you buried the story here guys, what the Hells is that?”
Pesh glanced at the bones “Giant snake.”
“Obviously, but where did it come from?”
“I don’t know, it was like that when we got here. Maybe that’s why this place is a ruin – snake that size would make me want to live somewhere else for sure.”
The Lords of Dust had built their temple to their forgotten trickster god underground as is apparently required for weird creepy religions so with the lighting of torches and the summoning of magical lights we were off down a long ramp into the earth. There were some smashed bones and triggered traps, evidence of the Five Torches previous visit, but no skeletons jumped out at us or tomb worms tried to eat us or anything. We simply passed through a few chambers whose purpose is lost to time and then Neddly set me down on the cold stone floor.
Pesh gestured with his chin “The mirror is in the next room. Like I said don’t look at it for too long, as soon as you’re back to yourself come back to us. Don’t linger.”
“Assuming it works.”
“It will work.”
“Before I go in there how about you stop being vague and tell me what happened to the second guy you brought here? What’s the risk of looking too long in the mirror?”
Rubast spoke up “The Cordon Precious isn’t meant to restore you to your original form, it’s meant to transform you into something else. The only reason it undoes any effects that have been done is to start with an original canvas to change you from there. If you look quickly it turns you back, if you look more it turns you into something else – and not just in body, in mind as well. You’ll forget who you are and become someone else.”
“So if I was just me and not a cat and I looked in the mirror it would just start messing me up?”
Rubast nodded “Yes, that happened as well.”
“Why would anyone want to make a thing like that?”
“It’s not to meant to do any of these things, as I said this was made from a shard of the Storm King’s Mirror, which was fractured by the Night Serpent Dendari and then the Lords of Dust . . .”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry I asked. Well, wish me luck.”
I padded into the next room which clearly had once been a large ritual chamber. Oddly though the mirror was not in the center, it was on the wall right by the entryway where the two rooms came together, if there was a door there opening that door would have covered up the mirror. The mirror itself was an irregular piece of glass five feet high and not even two feet wide roughly in a teardrop shape with the larger part on the bottom. It was framed with pewter and silver in a rectangular shape with the voids of the irregular shaped glass filled in with a shiny black metal. It was certainly odd in appearance, who would make a mirror with an asymmetric reflective surface, but nothing about it seemed particularly magic or fantastical.
But when I came around the corner my reflection was of me, not of a furry black cat, and half a second later the reflection was reality. I was me again, I was even wearing one of my old dresses. The good news is my hair was fully restored. The bad news is that my enchanted tattoos were gone. Small price to pay I suppose. And then, despite the warning, or perhaps because of it, I lingered for a moment. You know how when someone tells you not to touch a pan because it’s hot the first thing that comes to your mind is that you want to touch it? Maybe you touch it and maybe you don’t but you want to. And why? Because you want to know if the other person is right. Is the pan really that hot? What do they think hot is?
I stared into the mirror for a moment and I could feel something tugging at the edges of my mind. It was very much like the times some magic person has tried to mess with my thoughts. I could feel the power of the thing. I don’t know how or why, but I knew that if I looked long enough I would become someone else. My curiosity satisfied I walked back into the other room where Cladarielle and the Five Torches waited.
“My thanks to you all for all that you’ve done to help me. I was starting to think that it would never happen and I would live out my days as a cat. From the bottom of my heart you have my gratitude and my appreciation.”
Rubast’s jaw was almost on the floor “Good Gods you’re gorgeous!”
I smiled “Oh, do go on.”
Cladarielle and Rubast spent some time doing something magic to the mirror and studying it from the side as best they could while the rest of the Torches rattled around looking for any treasure they might have missed the times they were here. I just enjoyed having arms and legs again and hands instead of paws. A few hours later we left, there was nothing much else to be done. Not wanting to spend the night in an old ruin (no need to tempt fate) we traveled a short distance away before setting up another camp. Usually I’m a world class shirker, but I was happy to help gathering firewood and setting up tents just to get a chance to use my hands and feel human.
Inventory: Extravagant noble’s outfit
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage