Thursday, October 20, 2016

Adventure: The Witch's Friend (update 11.5)

Introducing The Witch's Friend!

This adventure will be a bit of a different CYOA, focusing on probably one particular transformation rather than a bunch of branches and endings. It will also be run differently; rather than me coming up with a bunch of directions a particular page can go to, every page's comment section is a forum for suggestions on what should happen next.

I will basically pick my favorite suggestion(s) from those given, and branch off events from each. More than one mutually compatible suggestion may make it into the same page after the one in which they are suggested.

What's New? 
Update 11.5-1 new piece with an image. Also I forgot to say what needed suggestions down below and fixed that for this update.
Update 11-5 new pieces; admittedly mostly things I wrote a while ago and held back on publishing for one reason or another.
Update 10-4 new pieces; two have images. Re-ordered update list (the thing you're reading now) to have most recent first so it's easier to see what the newest stuff is instead of having to read down the whole list every time.
Update 9-9(!!) new pieces, 3 of which have images.
Update 8-5 new pieces, including two with an image.
Update 7-3 new pieces, all three of which have an image! (Used to be 2 but I decided to add a 3rd the next day)
Update 6-1 new piece; small update.
Update 5-3 new pieces, one of which has an image!
Update 4-4 new pieces (don't expect this pattern to continue though, honestly)!
Update 3-3 new bits, one of which has an image! I've amended the section above to reflect the reality that suggestions don't really just decide what the main character does next, but may dictate what other characters do and even events not connected to any character at all.
Update 2-One step forward added to each of U1's branches.
Update 1-Two branches begun! Fair warning, even events and facts prior to the story's beginning may differ from one branch to another until established somewhere along the branch.
Update 0-It exists! Now seeking suggestions for moving forward from the beginning.

Need Suggestions:
-New pages that have 0 suggestions:  Trio,  Resistant, Help Out, Practice.
-Other pages I'd really like to see more/different suggestions for: Dark, Energy, Fish Stew, Actually Fit
As always, pretty much any new suggestions are welcome, but I am very interested in adding more "depth" to the graph representing the branching storylines if possible (that is, moving them farther forward as opposed to adding more splits).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The "Best" RPG Ever-25

Zack made himself pause in front of the mirror before going out to the bath. After all, the others were going to see the girl there with nothing but a towel awkwardly hung around her, so he had to get used to the idea, too.

The towel was large enough to cover from the shoulders down to the knees, but he still felt very exposed. The girl's expression reflected this: A visible blush; a kind of shy, not quite fearful look..ears about halfway between being up and folded flat against her head. He hadn't even noticed before looking that his tail was mostly between his legs, curled partway up but not enough to push at the towel. He took a deep breath, watching the breasts underneath the bit of white cloth go up and down slightly, and then turned around and left for the bath.

This bathhouse was run a little strangely, at least to someone like Zack from Earth where bathhouses usually just had one huge pool for each sex, and the only other option were normal bathrooms that usually fit exactly one person. Instead there were a lot of smaller areas, each of which had a number of changing rooms attached to a single room with a small, heated pool. Maybe it was more like a spa or something.

Somehow, despite how long taking off his armor and clothes had felt, Mika was the only person already here. She had a neon pink towel on and waved at him from an underwater bench. "Hey! C'mon, the water's fine!"
"Yeah, sure." He shuffled over as quickly as he dared in an effort to be sitting down before anyone else could see him from the back in this, and eventually took a couple of careful steps down into the pool, sitting across from the witch.

The water was...actually very nice. It was warm enough to be comfortable without being too hot, and just getting up to his neck in it seemed to cause his body to relax. He rolled his shoulders slowly, having a hard time believing how physically tense he'd been a moment ago.
Mika nodded at him. "Yeah, see? Isn't this better?" He blinked a couple of times before realizing he'd actually let out a small sigh.
"I-I guess so." There was some heat in his cheeks and he looked off to one side, hoping the others would just come in already.

Nora showed up next, her hair out of the gigantic ponytail it was usually in and falling all the way to her knees. "Um..I h-had some trouble with my hair," she muttered, walking up to one of the empty seats and lowering herself into it. "I've n-never really had long hair before, s-so I didn't really know how to undo the uh..thing."
"Well, welcome to the club," said the witch. "I'll help you put it back up after if you want. How d'you like the water?"
"It's nice," said the elf girl, smiling a bit. "I d-don't feel like I've relaxed at all s-since...coming here."
"I know, right? Hey, do you know how much bank we've made from just a few quests? We could take a whole week off and prolly be fine." When she noticed the wolf-girl glaring at her she said, "I mean, not that I'm suggesting we do that, y'know."

Finally, the psion showed up. She was using her powers to hold up the towel rather than her hands, and seemed slightly nervous walking up to the bath. "What took you so long?" said Zack.
"W-well, uh, to be honest I feel like I won't actually like being in water," she said. "I mean, l-like, I'm a little nervous about it.."
"Well, are ya gonna lick yourself clean?" said Mika.
Katherine made a face. "Ew, no, that's disgusting."
"Then get in here already. Just remember you lost a bet."
"Okay, s-sure." The catgirl slowly put one foot into the water and then the other, shook slightly while sitting down, and then finally gave a slight sigh of relief once she was stable.

"Phew...Okay, this isn't bad at all. I don't know why I was so worried."
"Cat thing?" suggested Zack. "You have been eating a lot of fish lately."
"It's not a cat thing," she said, her ears down in annoyance, "It's just...I-I don't know, okay?"
He shrugged, and a moment of silence followed as the four of them just soaked in the warm waters.

"Welllll.." said Mika, "I got some shampoo and brushes!" She pulled out two of each from the floor behind her and offered them to the animal-girls first. "C'mon, your fur's not gonna clean itself!"
They looked at each other and shrugged before taking the offered implements. Mika then offered just some shampoo to Nora before turning attention to her own ridiculous locks.

They were quiet for a moment. The ones with fur had to decide where to actually start the process of cleaning. Zack chose his tail, since it seemed to have the most hair out of all of him even including the head-hair, and besides that required the effort of pulling and holding it in front of himself, which seemed best to get out of the way first. Katherine just started at the top as a person without fur would and included the ears in that. Her tail wouldn't be that big a deal anyway; its fur was relatively short albeit thick.

Before long, Mika started to find the silence boring and decided to provoke some more conversation. "Does being part cat bother you?"
Katherine paused, thinking. "Well, I just...don't like the idea of being seen as a cat person first. What people should see when they see me is a powerful esper who can explode their heads in if they mess with me. Metaphorically and physically." She paused another moment, running the brush over her ears. "Actually I think I like being—well, like this—a lot. I'm fast, flexible, I have a terrific sense of balance. I'm used to being physically awkward, like, I couldn't even keep myself from falling over if I had to stand up on a bus, so this is a pretty nice change to experience. I look great, too, y'know, even if it is as a girl."
"Mm-hm." Mika nodded. "I play a lot of MMO's, and I always go with a girl character first, or main a female-only class, that kinda thing? I'll admit I just like being able to look at the cute girl character models a lot of the time, but it's also kinda interesting seeing people treat me differently just 'cause they think I'm a girl, which I don't tell 'em any different. I guess, uh, actually being one is more than a few steps past that. But I don't really care that much how I look, so it doesn't really bother me either?"
"Is that why you picked the witch class?" said the psion.
"Well, that and it promised ultimate power if I work for it a bit, so that's pretty cool."

The witch glanced over at the weaver. "Hey Nora, what about you?"
"Uh, w-what about me?"
She shrugged. "You don't talk much. Do you like, uuh, what's happened to you here?"
Nora stared into space for several seconds, giving the question some serious thought. "Honestly...I-I think I do."
Zack looked up to frown at her. "Why? You can't even wear normal clothes."
"W-well, yes..but..." She cocked her head slightly to the side. "I mean, th-that bothered me at first, but I hardly even th-think about it now. Besides..."
She paused and sighed slightly. "I..I've always had a c-c-condition, that made my bones more b-brittle and eas-easier to break than most people. I a-actually had a broken leg when I first appeared in th-the weird white room place. It seems like whatever it is that ch-changed us, healed that and even f-fixed the larger problem. Even if I'm n-not that resilient, I'm st-still nowhere near as fragile as I was."

Zack still looked bothered by something, but not specifically the elf. "What?" said Mika, "You don't have anything you like about your body now?"
"Well, I do, I mean I like being strong and having magic powers and sword skills, but it's not worth the price. But that's not what...
"Don't any of you find it weird just how, comfortable, you are looking like that? I mean—even if you say you don't care that much about whether you're male or female, you spent most of your life getting used to a different body. Even if there are things you like about it, it shouldn't feel this...natural...walking around in skin that's not your own. Sometimes..." He took a deep breath, and pointed emphatically to what he was still busy cleaning. "Sometimes I feel like I was born with a tail coming out of my back. It shouldn' much of us was actually changed?"
"Hmm," Katherine said. "Well, it's probably not the answer you're looking for, but a grown man isn't born a grown man either. You grow up from being a small child and eventually you feel like you've been grown up your whole life, even though you haven't. Growing up is at least as drastic as the changes that've happened to us, even if it is less sudden."

While he was still processing that, the elf chimed in. "Y-you you r-responded when I asked you whether your m-mind had been rewritten to match your class?"
"I th-think, it's something like that. A-at least for me, I don't..well, a-actually I know of one th-thing that has changed, what might be m-mentally? I've, a-actually never had a sp-speech, stutter before picking a cl-class.
"...But I know, I f-feel like that's the only thing that got really changed. I-I mean, I d-don't feel like the way I act or th-think now is in-inconsistent with who I r-remember being before. S-so, you mentioned you're good with a s-sword now and weren't before. Y-you know that that's a difference. S-sword skills are at least pa-partially in the mind, so you know that your mind w-was changed in that way. So you'd kn-know if it was changed in any other way, t-too, unless..."
Zack shook his head. "I can't consider that a possibility. So I guess you're right."

There was another pause with just the sounds of moving water and brushing. Mika again was the one to break it, this time with a "Hey, if we're done with that, do you wanna talk about the house?"
"I guess we'd better," said Zack. "What do you all think?"
"I think it means we'd have to make our own meals, which isn't too bad. I know how to cook," said Katherine.
"A-and, there was that part about defending it," added Nora. "B-but if I recall correctly, we actually s-set up the demon summoning site to the e-east, which is the direction R-Rose's forest is in. S-so we're not that likely to even b-be attacked."
"Well, are you against it?" the witch asked the knight.
He sighed. "I...I really want to be. Staying in an inn feels like we're just here temporarily, until the game is over or whatever, and we can all go home. Owning a house is like giving up, saying we're okay with being stuck here forever. be honest, I like the idea of having my own bedroom again. And that's all just, psychological baggage anyway, I need to get past it. Where we sleep won't affect whether or not we're stuck here."

"So in that case I guess we have a unanimous yes?" Mika looked around the bath. "So the other thing is, if they're actually building it for us I wonder if we can ask for some specific stuff to be there! Like, where the bathrooms are or for them to put in a comfy chair somewhere. Did guard lady even say if it was gonna be furnished or not?"
"She didn't mention that," said Zack. "I don't think we should ask for too much since this whole thing is kind of a favor anyway."
"Still, it'd be helpful to have something to answer back with if she does ask us what we'd like to have in the house," said the catgirl, who by now had started on her tail. "I'd love to have a little library room with some bookshelves and a couple of reading chairs. Maybe a practice dummy so I can keep working on my aim with the knives..."

"—and correct me if I am wrong—you're saying all three of you had essentially the same experience as I did."
Rayna shrugged. "More or less."
The winged woman thought for a moment. "But there were some specific differences. You could say that I appear to have been changed by the...ghost, let us call it, while you were changed by...some kind of smoke?"
"...And the one we're carrying by drawing that sword form the ground."
"Fun fact," cut in the archer, "this is the third time in a row our little group has collectively had to carry someone into town. The second time it was me, because an ogre cracked my ribs."

The Doctor thought about Lynn running around and shooting a bow a couple of minutes ago. "...How long ago was that?"
"Just yesterday. The healer set it and gave me a potion and I think it's pretty much gone."
"Nnrrgh...that is not how healing works, accelerated or not. Damaging the ribcage should—you ought at least to still be too sore to move unless you are so high on painkillers that your head is scraping the moon!"
"Look, I don't know what to tell you other than 'magic'. Didn't you just fly ten minutes ago?"
Dr. Kellen's wings semi-unconsciously stretched themselves, unfurling slightly and folding back up, while she considered the physical plausibility of a humanoid, even a relatively short one like herself, actually flying through the air. "...Fair point.

"...I think I lost the subject for a moment. What do you think the different specific modes of change mean? It could very well be some clue to why or how we're here in the first place."
"Well, they definitely have to do with our classes, I think," said the foxgirl. "I mean, definitely Aria, her class is all about the demonic sword. And my class is all about perception; the smoke went directly into my eyes. I'm not sure about Lynn or you, though. You said the ghost thing had wings?"
"Well, you also wound up with wings, but that's more...race, than class, I think."
"What do you mean, 'race'? My complexion changed somewhat, but I didn't.."
"Like, fantasy race?" said Lynn. "You know, orc, elf, hobbit?" Seeing a lack of recognition, she explained: "In a typical fantasy setting—like the one we're currently walking through—'races' of people are defined not by the color of their skin but by significant physiological differences, stuff like having pointy ears and immortality, or fuzzy parts, or wings."

"If you're interested," added Rayna, "illusionist-sight tells me your race right now is 'half-Avian'."
"Why half?" said Lynn, "What's the other half?"
"I don't know." After a pause, she said, "Hey, actually, I've seen some people with like harpy wing-arms in town, so maybe those are full avians?"
"Why would the offspring of two different kinds of people, each of which has only four appendages, have six?" asked the doctor.
"You know, and correct me if I'm wrong," said Lynn, "but I'm pretty sure just the genetics stuff of mixing someone who has feathers with someone who doesn't probably needs magic to work in the first place, so it just goes ahead and tacks on something else that doesn't make sense."
"Well, not medical sense at least," said her friend. "It makes a kind of sideways logical sense, though. You put together someone with wings and someone with arms and you get someone with wings and arms."
"It's quite disturbing to think of a force actively making things work the way a naive person thinks they should," said Dr. Kellen.

"Oh, uh...we should probably come up with some reason why you're with us," said Lynn. "Because we don't really want everyone in town to think you're crazy, and that's what'll happen if you talk about waking up in a white room and having your body changed by a menu box and a ghost."
Dr. Kellen shrugged. "Simple enough. I was flying toward the town when I was interrupted by the bird. You distracted it so that it did not hurt me, and out of a mixture of gratitude and self-defense I helped you destroy it."
"Yeah, but this whole 'frontier' land we're in is apparently really well-known to be dangerous and full of monsters," said Rayna. "Why would you just be going alone?"
"Obviously I thought I would be safer in the skies than on the ground, enough to not require a companion."

Lynn and Rayna exchanged a look while shifting Aria off of Dr. Kellen's shoulders and onto theirs. "Do you, uh, want to stick with us once we get there?" said the archer. "I mean, we kind of assumed you'd want to join our party but there's no reason you really have to."
"I would rather remain with someone sharing the same plight," said the Empath. "Besides, at least for the moment I cannot imagine trying to comprehend this world on my own."
"It's surprising how fast it makes sense, though," said Rayna. "But...I guess you don't play a lot of video games?"
"None at all."
"Aah, that might make it more of an uphill battle. Can't speak for sleeping beauty here, but Lynn and I have been playin' games together for years, and a lot of stuff here is just kind of borrowed from those one way or another. I should probably start with explaining the skill tree and status menu stuff, then..."

Monday, October 3, 2016

The "Best" RPG Ever-24

Somehow Rose had really expected it to be difficult to find clothes that would fit her. After all, she had wings, horns, and a tail, none of which anyone in the world Rob had lived in for so long would have even thought to make clothes to accommodate. But the very first store she went to had clothes made to do just that. There weren't really any matched sets intended for a person with wings and a tail as such, but folks with one of the two seemed pretty common, at least enough that there were entire sections dedicated to them.

So the real problem was not finding clothes; it was putting them on. Anything that had to go over Rose's head had to be very carefully maneuvered around the horns to not rip straight through them, and anything that was supposed to come up her legs had the same issue with her awful clawed feet. Well, they weren't awful, she rather liked them for things like running fast and climbing trees and stepping on thorns without getting hurt, but they definitely weren't designed for the task of, for instance, putting on pants.

Fortunately, there were undergarments intended to be tied around the body instead of pulled up, so the dragon-girl just went with a decent-sized set of those rather than spending money on what would surely turn into a bunch of ripped-up delicate cloth within a week. It was harder to find anything resembling pants that would do similarly, but skirts and dresses and such seemed nice. It was a little odd enjoying frilly clothes like that on herself, as opposed to on other people, but enjoy them she did, fidgeting with them and twirling around in them in the dressing rooms.

In tops, Rose had to negotiate the difficulty of fumbling with a bunch of buttons with her hands (which were clearly not suited to delicate tasks like that) against that of pulling things up and down across her horns, and eventually decided things with just shoulder straps instead of a collar, or things that have wide bottoms and only come together at the top after going past the head were probably the best solutions. Some part of her realized it was strange to have to think through this when so much of 'being a dragon girl' had somehow entered Rob's head on simply changing into one...but then, this must be more of that 'not good with society' business. Rose's memory seemed to suggest she hadn't been on a shopping trip like this in more than long enough to have forgotton how these things worked.

Eventually she left the store in a nice floral-printed summer dress barely down to the thighs, practically all of her money spent between the actual new clothes and a few "break it, bought it" fees on the early experiments. So equipped, Rose decided to just explore the town a little more before heading back toward home..maybe late afternoon or tonight. Some part of her was hoping she'd run into her original friends who'd brought her here, or at least someone as cute as one of them, before then.

Eventually the party of three came close to where the flying beast was supposed to be perched, thankfully without having encountered any other monsters between. Rayna put up an illusion of the ground beneath the three of them, and they fell silent as they approached a group of tall plateaus jutting out of the land in the distance, reportedly the location of their target's nest.

It was a while of walking yet before they got to where they could see it. Eventually Aria pointed emphatically at a tall silhouette near a cliff's edge, and the others stared at it for a moment. Even at this distance it was clear this thing was more than big enough to carry a grown man in each of its talons and block out the sun along the way.

"You think you can hit it at this distance?" whispered Rayna.
"Probably," said the archer. "I probably have a few tries before it notices anything. What do you think, fire?"
"We want to clip its wings, just hit it with a rock to break a few bones," suggested the shifter.
"I'm worried it's too big for a rock to make much of a dent."
"Bird bones are hollow," countered Aria. "Unless this thing defies everything I've ever heard about being physically able to fly, just hitting a part of a wing hard enough should bring it down, or at least give it a really hard time."
"Just do it quick," said Rayna breathlessly, "It's actually really hard to keep one illusion going for this long."

"Okay, okay." Lynn aimed carefully, a part of her mind that hadn't really been quite as sharp before entering this world calculating the right arc to hit something that high up, feeling for the wind, trying its best to make sure the arrow would hit its mark. Soon she loosed an arrow with a large rock on the end of it, and it flew almost straight up at first, slowly turning forward as it went down...and hit the giant bird directly in the head.

There was a brief moment of silence between the sound of the rock colliding with the giant bird's skull and an extremely loud, shrill screech from roughly the same location, the monster's beak. It leapt into the air and flew up and around, clearly trying to find the origin of the pain in its head.

"Well, that didn't work," said Aria.
"I'm lucky I even hit it at all at this distance!" hissed Lynn back. Then to Rayna, "Can you keep us hidden long enough for another shot?"
"Nngh..maybe? You'll have a really good view of its wings if it swoops down at us, though."
"Hey! Make it notice something over there," said Aria, pointing a ways off parallel to the cliffs.
"Oh...yeah!" Rayna quickly made a large crowd of fake people in that spot, hoping the bird would go after those instead of the smaller group. When it turned around toward its nest again, it shrieked once more and began a dive-bomb in the illusion's direction. Lynn drew back her bow, readying another shot...

Just when the archer was about to fire, there was a woman's yell from above, followed by a person's body sailing right into the monster's right wing. This altered the bird's considerable momentum enough to send it into a twisting spiral followed by a hard crash, digging a long ditch into the ground as it went. The person, a flash of white to the party of three at this distance, bounced off of the bird's wing back into the air and started to fall before spreading a pair of wings of their own, eventually managing a somewhat lighter crash-landing on the opposite side of the bird from the trio.

Before either of the others could react, Aria shouted "IT'S DOWN!!!", drew her demonic blade, and immediately charged toward the monster in a blind rage. Rayna and Lynn looked at each other for just a second before sharing a shrug and coming after her.

Working a long night at the hospital was not a surprise for Dr. Kellen. He would hardly have been surprised had he been halfway home that night only to be called back in to work and have to waste the gas driving back. Annoyed, perhaps, but not surprised. He was moderately surprised to find a small cardboard box waiting on his doorstep, which on closer examination contained only the worst kind of blank CD envelope containing the advertised piece of outdated media with crude marker writings on it declaring "Best RPG Ever!"

Dr. Kellen scratched his head. Was this one of those computer games? Why had someone left it at his doorstep? It seemed like it might very well be a mistake, but in the middle of the night he could hardly bother his neighbors to check if this was supposed to be theirs. Besides, there was no receipt or packing slip or indeed any of the kinds of things that should accompany a box that's been shipped through the mail at all. The disk itself was the closest thing to a clue as to its proper owner.

His curiosity had the better of him, and rather than going to bed immediately as planned he tried opening the disk on his home computer. The file on it seemed equally unhelpful, but it didn't seem like running it was likely to do any harm. It was when Dr. Kellen woke up in a strange, featureless white room that he realized every action of his tired mind on what felt like had been perhaps the night before had probably been a mistake.

"Hello?" he called, getting a better look around the place. "Is somebody listening? Whoever put me here, you should know that I'm expected for the morning shift." He wasn't really sure how to comprehend this situation: He was well-off, sure, but if someone wanted to rob him of money he couldn't very well pay them off from this kind of cell. His mind jumped backwards to the fact that his being here seemed like the result of running a program on his computer, and decided that was probably higher on the list of things that did not make sense about this situation.

"Someone will come looking for me!" he declared angrily. His usual response to stress was a display of anger, and it was such a habit that even fear came out as rage.

He realized he'd been nearly hyperventilating, and slowed his breath, trying to calm down and think. Wait for someone to respond, or demand something...but there was no response. Not for what felt like an eternity of waiting. The only thing close to communication in the room was the text floating in midair (which jumped to the top of the aforementioned list now that he really looked at it), which demanded that he pick a class.

The thing he was interacting with below the text-box felt like some sort of futuristic hologram technology. Impressive, if he weren't trapped here with it and nothing else. None of the things it listed seemed to him like classes. They were more descriptions of...well, occupations perhaps? Not by and large real occupations, but mostly imaginary ones that might exist in a fictitious fantasy world.

If he was going to pick one of these, well, it seemed like it would make sense to pick something he knew something about. So, still struggling to logically grasp this situation at all in the first place, Dr. Kellen eventually settled on a representation of an outstretched hand tilted slightly palm-up, whose description read: "Empath: An unconventional healing class. Empaths are incapable of directly healing others, instead using a combination of the power to take on the wounds of another with an extraordinary ability to heal themselves. Empaths are not naturally fighters, but are capable of 'granting' others their own wounds through a perversion of their usual ability. Not a class for the fainthearted."

The instructions were to take the hand to confirm this choice of class. It might have disconcerted someone else to take a disembodied ghostly hand a little more than it did Dr. Kellen; to be honest he had seen far worse than a severed hand. But when he put his hand on it and pulled as if to take it, he was surprised to find an entire body coming out with it. It looked like a vague humanoid shape, ghostly as the hand it came from, with a pair of wings spread wide coming out of its back. As it emerged he stepped back, half from surprise and half from momentum, and looked down at the strange...being he seemed to have just summoned.

It 'stared' up at him, though it lacked the features necessary to do anything of the sort, for a few seconds. Dr. Kellen felt as if it was looking through him somehow, and had brief fleeting thoughts of angels before quickly dismissing them. This was...some kind of illusion or trickery, right? Either way, the head soon 'nodded' and then the entire body dissipated into a kind of bluish mist before flying straight into him.

Dr. Kellen panicked very briefly at the notion of something so alien having just seemingly passed into his body before getting an odd sense of calm. He felt...warm, somehow, and automatically took a deep breath. Then he started to shrink.

"What..?" he tried to ask, calmly but still very confused; he was interrupted by a very firm sense that he shouldn't worry; that this was going to be okay. His vision sank downward, and his hair spilled out along the sides of his face, tickling his cheeks slightly. The tickling gave way to a slight tingling across his face that then spread downward. He looked down, then, and saw through hair that was paler than before his white scrubs starting to shuffle and rearrange themselves.

He held up his arms and saw them becoming slimmer and paler, the hairs on them slowly retreating into his skin. It was a surreal experience unlike anything he'd imagined before, seeing his own body change so rapidly. His shoulders narrowed down and his stomach slimmed while his hips and the tops of his legs began to spread apart. His shirt sank down off of his shoulders besides a pair of thin straps, the sleeves detaching and falling down nearly to the elbows. The pants did even more, spreading apart into frills and shortening, showing off slender legs and small, bare feet.

"I...I..?" he spoke, confused, in a high-pitched voice, looking around as the room finally quit growing upward. His hair was now pure, snowy white and swished across his bare shoulders, which now flexed themselves strangely. He could feel appendages pushing themselves out from the blades; looking back he saw a pair of black-feathered wings growing out, becoming steadily wider and taller. Beneath the short dress his clothes had turned into, his underwear felt oddly soft and tight, and there was a small, gentle tugging sensation down there, too.

"Am" he said slowly, in a voice more curious than worried. It certainly felt like it, as the tugging culminated in an odd sensation of flatness down there, along with an upward push deep in the pit of the stomach. Following this, the winged girl's chest began to push forward, stretching and filling the cloth near the top of the dress and a bra beneath it. Somehow the feeling of her chest growing and her wings, now fully grown to a grand span nearly twice her own height, stretching themselves out felt natural and right, as if something wrong had been corrected.

She breathed slowly as the changes slowed to a halt, looking down at her body's new small, feminine shape with a slight blush and smile. None of this made any sense, but at the same time, for once it didn't feel as if it had to.

 (A/N: Just imagine the wings are as big as advertised. I could find no pictures whatsoever with the correct wingspan.)

Dr. Kellen looked back up at the box, which said to take a leap of faith to begin her journey. Below it, where the class selection had been, there was a fair-sized circular hole with something pitch black directly through it. She considered the hole for a good several seconds before shrugging. "I's better than being trapped here."

The sense of calm made her less inclined to panic, but frankly this entire situation was still rather unpleasant to her. She gave a displeased sigh at the world in general, folded up her wings to fit, and leapt down into the hole.

Immediately the winged woman was somewhere in the middle of a blue sky, with a lot of momentum in a direction that sort of felt like down. Her wings spread out instinctively, but she was still too disoriented to make sense of her location or direction and flailed clumsily through the air, yelling, for a few seconds before crashing directly into something large and feathery.

Okay, that way was down, she realized as she saw the ground below, and that was enough to make some intuitive sense of her own position and motion. She managed to flap a couple of times and glide just enough to land safely in a tumbling roll. Dr. Kellen bounced back to her feet with an agility somewhat alien to her, and turned in the direction of a woman screaming "IT'S DOWN" to find the owner of the feathers she'd just bounced off of.

It was a gigantic bird, much larger than conventional physics or biology suggested should be possible. It was standing itself up and looking in her direction, and it really didn't look very pleased with her. It gave a very loud screech before lifting itself several yards off the ground with one powerful flap and diving toward her. The flap caused a strong gust of wind, which was evidently enough to force Dr. Kellen's wings open and lift her small body entirely into the air; she took a sharp turn to the side opposite a nearby cliff face to get just barely away from the great bird's talons, landing a little more gracefully this time while the bird skidded back to the ground.

A tall woman with a gigantic sword, the owner of the screaming voice earlier if her current manic laughter was anything to go by, ran toward the bird from its back, followed by another girl with a bow and still another who seemed to have...a tail? Well okay, sure, Dr. Kellan had wings now, so why not. Anyway, the beast managed to turn around much faster than it seemed right for something that big to do and met a swing of the sword with its own talons; they clashed with a metallic clang rather than said talon being torn in two. An arrow, on fire, sailed straight into the bird's wing at the same time.

The monster screeched and flapped its wings again, producing a gust of wind that sent the swordswoman flying straight into the air and nearly knocked the archer back. Without really thinking about it, Dr. Kellen caught the gust when it came toward her and directed her flight to intersect the one with the sword. She managed to catch her and protect her from a rougher landing with her own body and wings, which was rewarded by some spastic flailing and incoherent yelling from her passenger. She let her go and she just started running toward the bird again. "That isn't going to work!" yelled Dr. Kellen over another screech as the bird hopped back into the air and started a dive toward both of them.

The swordswoman met the giant bird's talons with her blade, resulting in just another clash as it swooped back up into the air. The winged woman watched her hop up and down, spouting a stream of curses and flailing the weapon around as if still expecting to hit something with it, for a second before being interrupted by another person's voice. "If you've got a better idea I'd love to hear it."

She jumped briefly at the closeness of the voice and looked to find the..the one with the tail standing right there next to her with a fist on one of her hips. "She's not really sane right now. We were trying to disable its wings but that didn't go so well."
"Well you should keep trying," said Dr. Kellen angrily, her usual personality surfacing over the calm. "Or stab it in the heart or something." She was not happy about this thing nearly clawing her in half with its apparently metallic talons.
"You're the one with the wings," retorted the fox-girl.
"I don't—I'm not really," Dr. Kellen fumbled briefly. "Do you see a weapon on me?"
"That hardly proves anything," the tailed one shrugged.

The conversation paused with another screech as the bird apparently dove at...well, actually nothing it looked like to the winged woman, just a patch of empty field way over in the distance. The swordswoman ran excitedly toward that spot while the huge bird just flew back up out of her reach, an arrow sparking with electricity sailing just past it to one side.

"Maybe you can just crash into its wing again," suggested the fox-girl. "All we really need is for Aria to hit it anywhere but the talons."
"That was an accident it didn't see coming. It'll pluck me out of the sky sooner than I can get behind it."
"Well, I can make sure it still doesn't see you coming." Because Dr. Kellen gave her a look that demanded an explanation, she added, "I'm an illusionist, I'm not really next to you, see?" As a follow-up the fox-girl disappeared from view, reappeared a ways off and waved at her.

The winged woman gave a sigh that ended in something halfway between a girl groaning and a growl. "Ask your friend with the bow not to hit me instead," she said loudly, and then took off at a run to get back into the air.
Thankfully, it seemed like whatever the 'illusionist' did was working, as Dr. Kellen was able to make her ascent directly in front of the big bird's eyes without it seeming to notice her at all. Before long it dove at nothing again, and she was able to position herself above and behind it.

The goal here was to make the beast crash, not necessarily to crash into it. Realizing this, she thought up a better way to accomplish the desired result, one possibly a little less likely to end with another awkward landing that could result in broken bones. Dr. Kellen lined herself up with the middle of the bird's back and dove straight at it, hitting it dead-center with her feet and immediately crouching onto it and grabbing a bunch of its feathers. As expected, it screeched again and twisted itself sideways in an immediate effort to get her off. When she held on, kicking it a couple of times with her feet, it continued on its way to being completely upside-down, and then immediately started an unintentional dive to the ground again. This thing was clearly not built for maneuvers that complex, and it lost all control as the winged girl let go and glided her way aside of where it was landing.

The woman with the sword chased after the beast again, and this time managed to reach it just as it hit the ground. She leapt into the air and landed sword-first in its right wing, drawing another loud screech which made Dr. Kellen wonder if everyone here was going to suffer hearing loss before the end of this affair. She started chopping madly at it after that while the bird stood itself up, up until it finally shook itself and tossed her away to one side, followed by a parting flap from its left wing sending her several feet more into the air.

For a moment it had looked like the creature wasn't bleeding from any of the places the sword had hit, but now it was clearly showing a lot of bright red in various small lines along the back of its wing. It was turning itself more toward Aria, who was skipping repeatedly across the ground like a stone on a calm lake. Dr. Kellen ran toward her even though she was clearly going to be too late to do much of anything, only to see another flash of motion as a...mid-sized rock went and hit the bird on the head.

Forgetting briefly about the swordswoman, it turned in the direction the arrow had come from and deflected a volley of three more arrows with a flap of its good wing, forcing the archer to dive aside of her own attacks.

The empath made it to Aria just when she was making her final skid along the ground and stopping face-down in the dirt, and made an effort to turn her over and see whether she was still breathing. The swordswoman groaned, her entire body covered in scrapes and bruises; what blood was coming out seemed to be trailing its way through the air to her sword as if it were a black hole that somehow applied exclusively to blood.

She sat halfway up, and Dr. Kellan pushed her back to the ground. "Don't move," she snapped.
"Gonna stab tha' bird." She gave a cursory check of the limbs, and was surprised to find nothing seemed actually broken. "Eat its blood."
Aria squirmed again. "Just hold still for a blasted second!"

Feeling as if she had done this sort of thing her entire life, Dr. Kellen put her hand over one of the worse wounds, a large bruise on the left knee, and sort of mentally...pulled at it. A slight bluish glow formed under he hand and she felt an intense pain in the same spot on her own body as it started to disappear from the patient's. She winced but kept at it for what felt like a full minute, only realizing afterward it had taken a matter of seconds. And then moved on to the next-worse wound, and the next, pushing off the pain as best she could.

Before long Aria had only minor wounds and the winged woman was in near-blinding pain, the combination of which made it impossible to keep the swordswoman from shoving her out of the way and running back into the fight. Dr. Kellen fell directly onto her back, heaving for breath, and did something else that felt familiar despite not having done it before: She began to heal herself. She closed her eyes, calmed her mind, and focused, pushing back against the pain while slowly sitting up. The pain receded, and after only a few seconds she opened her eyes again to find the wounds themselves had lessened in severity to just a collection of minor ones.

While the Empath had been busy healing Aria, the bird had been directed away from the archer by a series of vague person-shaped illusions holding bows, allowing Lynn to catch her breath. It rapidly pecked and clawed at the air and generally made the archer glad her friend's powers were so effective against it. She looked over at the real Rayna, now right next to her and breathing heavily. "Thanks. You gonna be okay?"
"Just...hh..just kill the stupid thing."
"Sure, buddy." Lynn patted Rayna on the shoulder once and then ran at the bird, seeing the girl with the giant sword coming at it from the side. The bird saw her too, and swiped at her with a talon just in time to clash with her sword again. They began a series of clashes, the giant bird apparently too enraged at this point to bother flapping its wings again.

Once she was in range, Lynn drew another arrow and took careful aim at its eyes. They were moving targets, sure, especially when it tried to peck Aria, but there was a kind of pattern to its insane craning, jerking and swivelling, and after just a couple of cycles she felt confident enough to fire and give it an element, producing an arrow with a bunch of frail, cracked ice attached to it.

The arrowhead buried itself directly in the monster's eye, drawing another loud screech and a spreading of its wings. The ice shattered into twenty or so sharp little pieces which mostly landed all over its head. But, as painful as it surely was, that was merely a distraction. Through the pain in its eye, the bird was unable to focus on blocking Aria's next attack, a lunging stab straight at its center, and the demonic sword buried itself all the way to the hilt right where the most blood would be—the location of its heart.

The monster gave a weak, pained cry and flailed its wings briefly before going down, dying partially of the wound to its heart and partially of a sudden, rapid loss of blood. Aria held onto the sword with both hands and managed to avoid getting thrown off. She twisted it around as the monster stopped moving, beginning to pant heavily from the efforts of the fight. Everyone else slowly converged on her location, each of them looking just as exhausted as she felt.

Once the last of the blood was gone, the demon blade was satisfied and Aria pulled it out again so it could form its sheath and disappear back into its usual inventory slot. She looked around at her two party members and the stranger with a grin. "Woo! Giant monster, dead," she said, pumping a fist weakly. "Yeah. I'm j'st gonna, I'monna take a nap now okay?" And then the shapeshifter fainted.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The "Best" RPG Ever-23

There had been a few minutes of general silence since the party of three headed out to kill a giant bird, with Rayna taking the lead thanks to being a living compass. Eventually, Lynn (who was in back, as a ranged fighter) said, "Hey. Sooo...Aria."
"Look, me and Rayna, we've been friends a long time. Each of us can usually tell if the other is stressed or is just normal, or like whether they're angry or just messing around..that kind of thing."
"Uh-huh?" Aria nodded, not seeing the point yet.
"Well, it's just—and this is totally not your fault, it's just how things are at the moment—we don't know you that well. Neither of us. So..."
"It seems like you're a little more stressed today than you were yesterday," finished the fox-girl in front. "And we don't know whether you're actually acting like your usual self now, maybe because you get some kind of actual contact high from your sword drinking enough blood, or were just kind of going off the excitement from everything that's happened...or if something bad has happened since then."
"Also, whether or not one of us did the bad thing," added Lynn. "Or if it's just the blood hunger getting at you more or sooner than you thought it would."
"Oh." The shifter thought about it for a moment.

"Well...I guess I probably should tell you anyway. The blood hunger is, well it's there, but I can manage it. What's eating at me is, last night when I went to sleep I found out another wonderful side effect of having the cursed sword on me. My dream was...well, I was standing on a tiny cliff. I couldn't go back to whatever land the cliff was supposed to be attached to, and I couldn't exactly see it, either. The cliff dropped to a huge black void, and way off in the distance was a huge demon which I think is actually the one that's sealed in the sword.
"But...the thing is, like, you know how normally you have a dream and it feels like you were there for five, ten minutes when you were asleep all night?"
"Yeah," Rayna nodded.
"I didn't get that.

"I was stuck in that spot, maybe a square yard or so total, for the entire however-many-hours I was asleep. I couldn't will myself awake, either, and I felt terrified at the idea of jumping off the cliff. The entire place smelled like blood, and I could hear what I think was my own blood going through my veins the entire time. And—and I was having trouble differentiating my own thoughts from other ones, which I think were the demon's. If this—" she cut herself off and took a deep breath, calming herself down from the brink of a panic. "If this is what's gonna happen every night I'm scared to death I'm gonna go to bed one night and wake up already totally insane."
"Oh. That's, uh..that's pretty bad," said Lynn.
"Yeah. I feel like I might understand just a little better what it's like to be stuck in solitary confinement. It's like...there was interesting stuff there to look at, like the huge demon in the distance, sure, but after a while it was all just things I'd seen before. I'd memorized everything there was to see before I think even an hour had passed, and I got bored. It' don't think of boredom as really being all that bad, but when you're bored and you literally can't do anything for hours, it's awful. Knowing—feeling like I was trapped, and might be there just forever was probably the worst part. I...tried to sort of meditate for a while. I've never done that before, and the demon's thoughts kept interrupting me, but it helped a little."

"Hmm." Rayna thought for a moment. "Do you think it would help more if you actually knew how to meditate right?"
"Maybe? I dunno."
"Well, it seems like it's worth a shot. Since probably there are some some magic classes that can use meditation to their advantage, there's gotta be a few teachers in town. We could look for some once we get back from this hunt."
"Yeah, I kinda like that idea," said Aria. "Anyway, even if it doesn't help I'll get to make one more person's life a little more surreal when I explain why exactly I want to learn."

The guard captain's room was not made to house six people, but managed it anyway. The captain herself regarded Rose for a long moment, long enough to make her a bit nervous despite being on the winning side of a severe difference in size. " have a forest to the east," she said.
"Uh, yeah, uh-huh. Like I told them, I didn't even know there was a town here."
"I'm guessing you're a nature draconian, then? You collect plants rather than gold or jewels?"
"Well, I guess that's right," she said, blinking a couple of times. "I brought some gifts to show I'm friendly!" Having retrieved the leaf basket from Nora, she held it out at the captain.
"That's very kind of you, besides helping these four out. But I wouldn't really know what to do with them myself. Perhaps you should sell or trade them in town, if there's anything you'd like to have here. Your existence also explains why we get fewer monsters coming from that direction, doesn't it?"
"I guess so? They learned to keep out of my land a long time ago."

"So we've already benefited from your presence anyway," she said with a nod. "We'd be more than happy to have you as a more official ally. I'll make sure my guards don't steal from or set fire to your forest. But since nobody much has bothered you yet, I think telling everyone where your forest is, even in the middle of a law saying to keep out of it and not bother you, would be counterproductive. It would be best if only those of us in this room, and a small number of trusted people, know where it is in case of emergency. If word gets out another way, I'll have a no-trespass law waiting."
"Aww, that's really kind of you," said the dragon-girl. For being a scary lady, she also seemed awfully friendly.
"I need to speak to these four alone for a while. Please, take a look around our town."
"Okay! See you girls, uh, and guy, later!" she waved.
"Bye," said Mika, waving; Zack and Katherine nodded.
"F-farewell," said Nora.

Once the door was shut again, the captain leaned forward a bit, looking at Mika. There was a long enough moment of silence to make the witch a bit nervous. "Um..."
"I need to know whether or not I should worry about something," she said immediately. "Some of my guards reported something unusual outside of town, so I sent another party out to investigate. Based on their report, I concluded that the place in question must be a singular demon summoning ritual site. The kind of place that only a witch or warlock would be likely to set up. Is it yours?"
"Er—well, yes. I—w-we tried to go far enough out of town not to bother people," said Mika, starting to fear for her life a bit.
"Our patrols go pretty far out so we'll have enough advance warning of major monster attacks. As I understand it, it's much easier to use the same site multiple times than to go somewhere different, which I imagine is why you didn't do much cleanup."
She was right, but Mika hadn't actually thought about that. "Um...yeah, probably that."
"Actually, we didn't even think about cleaning it up," said Zack. "I thought that ash would just blow away in a couple hours anyway."
"Well, it doesn't do that because of the magic involved," said the captain. "The problem is that it looks an awful lot like a place to summon demons, and people—even my guards—don't like the idea of that. Anyone who doesn't know a fair amount about this sort of thing is going to assume someone is setting up to attack the town with a demon army. And we can't not protect that side of town, you understand?"
"So, you want us to go out there and clean it up," said the psion.

"Actually, I had something else in mind. You've been staying at the tavern since your arrival, right?"
"Yes," said Zack.
"Well, in light of the work you've done—especially today's work, not only the report on that castle but catching those thieves and discovering a powerful new ally for our town—I think I could arrange to give you a plot of land around the ritual site, and have a fence around the area and a house built there for you."
Since all four of them just stared either at her or each other for the next several seconds, she continued: "You'd be responsible for protecting your own property from monsters and alerting town if anything really serious is coming; guards would go around the fence so they wouldn't see the ritual site at all. We have this kind of arrangement with a few other people who were interested in having a larger plot of land rather than a cramped space in town somewhere, in exchange for the somewhat higher risk. The legal side isn't much trouble since all of that land officially belongs to the crown, and our local government represents the crown; I'd just need to sort through a bit of red tape that I've already seen several times before."

"Um..." Zack looked at the others for a moment and then back to the guard captain. "Could we, uh, take some time to discuss this?"
"Sure," she said, "it's a fairly big decision. Get back to me by midafternoon tomorrow. If your answer is no I will expect you to clean up the summoning site."
"Right, of course."

The alchemists were just as impressed with Rose's offerings as she had thought they would be, and offered to pay her even more if she could give him seeds for some of the rarer plants next time. The dragon-girl left that place quite a bit richer, and very happy that she valued plants rather than normal treasures. After all, a dragon who sat on a giant pile of gold would have to permanently lose some of that gold to get other stuff, while her hoard of treasure was self-renewing, requiring only a little patience to have just as much as before after spending some of it up.

Since she was still very hungry at that point, she went to a restaurant that smelled good and ordered their biggest portion of meat, a big steak. But when it came, she paused for a long moment, staring at the silverware next to it. How did these things work again? She sneaked a few looks around at the other patrons, seeing them cut and pick up their food so easily, but it still seemed...difficult to understand somehow.

Rose shook her head. This didn't make any sense; Rob certainly knew how to use knives and forks and things! She could remember using them as him, but This was more than a little worrying. Had her mind been messed with in taking on a "character" and a "class", and just how much? She'd been acting weird ever since starting this..."game", hadn't she? Blurting things aloud that never should have come out of her mouth around real people, moving a bit more like an animal than a person at times, and just acting strangely in general...

Could she...overcome that? Rose was sure she ought to be able to keep herself quiet, and learn to use silverware, and all sorts of things like that. But it felt..unnatural somehow, like it was going to take a lot of effort to keep up. Besides, people seemed...relatively okay with how she was acting now, right? Or at least...the girls she'd met in the forest had willingly enough put up with her. Maybe they were just being nice, though; obviously the way she was acting was weird.

Speaking of things that were hard and took effort...this thinking was one of them. Rose was getting an increasingly strong urge to tear into the steak and forget all about this for a while. But...for the sake of making a good impression, she awkwardly picked up a random fork and the sharpest-looking knife and started trying to re-teach herself how to eat a steak properly. Eventually she managed to get a large chunk of it cut up and more or less skewered on the fork, still much too big for her mouth, but she quietly tore that off with her teeth, hoping that was less conspicuous than just picking up the whole thing with her hands. Nobody really seemed to notice or stare, that was good, but she couldn't shake the feeling she was holding the fork wrong..backwards or sideways or upside-down or something. Still, this much was enough to get to eating, and before too long the meat was gone and she didn't need to worry about it anymore.

After remembering to pay and tip the waiter, and doing that, the dragon-girl left the restaurant feeling reasonably satisfied, for now at least. The next thing she thought she might do is buy a few new sets of clothes. If she wasn't mistaken, the ones she was wearing right now were the only ones she had that could be reasonably called 'intact'...

Outside the guardhouse, Mika reached into her inventory (wherever that was) and pulled out a map of town, looking at it only briefly before pointing at a spot on it with a grin and nodding, turning to the others. "Alright you two, we have a wager to settle."
Nora gave her a confused look.
"We made a bet on the way to the dragon-girl's forest," she explained. "They didn't think you'd get free on your own."
"W-well, I mean technically I d-didn't though?"
The witch shook her head. "No, the way Rose told you were definitely out of the ropes before she even did anything. That's good enough for me!"

"I thought you were just trying to consciously use your high luck stat." said Katherine.
"Technically?" Mika shrugged, "but that doesn't work unless it's an actual bet with consequences. Anyway, I figured out the perfect thing on the way here. Sooo, follow me!" She started off down the street, the others following after.

"S-so, uh, what exactly did you win?" said the elf.
"We have to do 'something embarassing'," said the psion. "Not so much her win as our loss," she added with a shrug.
"You also promised it wouldn't be too embarassing," added Zack. "And we need to talk about this house thing."
"Uh-huh, we can do that at the same time," said Mika. "Here we are!" She raised her hands emphatically at the front of a bathhouse before turning around to the rest of the group.

Katherine said, "Um.."
Zack finished, "No." His ears were folded flat against his head and his arms were crossed.
"Oh come on, this is perfect!" said the witch, hopping up and down a bit. "It's kinda embarassing, yeah, but it's also private. We can rent a room just for us for an hour and talk about the house thing while we relax and get clean. Anyway, you lost a bet," she said, glaring up at him. "The only person who gets a choice in this is Nora."
"You'll just have to find something else for me," he said.
"Not that I'm complaining," said the cat-girl, "but why did you think of this in the first place?"

"Well, just, first of all have any of you actually bathed since we got here, like, how many days ago?" she said. While they were busy looking at each other in response to that she added, "I have no idea how you haven't noticed but there's burrs and dirt and junk all over your fur. I'm actually grateful all the hairs on my extra parts are short enough to just shake stuff off of, seeing all that. I mean, come on, Zack, you can just hide under a towle, or—or I'll buy you the most conservative swimsuit we can find if it helps. We've been trusting each other with our lives for sheesh's sake, what's—" Mika paused, realizing that she'd been getting louder and louder during this rant and also waving her hands almost nonstop. She took a deep breath and said much more quietly, "What's being naked around each other for half an hour, huh?"
The knight sighed, his expression softening a bit. "..Fine. I guess something like this was gonna happen eventually."
"Okaay, great. What d'you wanna do, Nora?"

The weaver shrugged. "T-to be honest, I've gotten used to f-feeling exposed. I'm b-barely even wearing anything to begin with."
"Cool! Then we can all be together to talk about the house thing." Mika's usual grin returned and she turned around, gesturing for the others to follow her inside.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Heart's Desire

Basically an expanded caption. Just something light I wrote in an effort to get myself back into the habit of writing after a very long creative slump.

Heart's Desire

The summer of their sophomore year of college, Morgan invited his two roommates along for a vacation down near the sunny coast. Allen was all for it, but Ethan they had to more or less drag along. Yet...Morgan was sure they'd done the right thing when he sneaked a look in his reluctant friend's direction as they got out of the car at the hotel and saw him smiling up at the setting sun.

The first thing they did, of course, was unpack at the hotel. Ethan pretended to sulk in a corner, so Morgan turned his attention to his other roommate..who was busy unpacking a pair of dumbbells. “Dude, what are those doing in your suitcase? This is a vacation, y'know.”
“Well, there's no vacation from bein' buff,” said Al, pumping one of them up and down.
“You coulda at least asked me if it was okay! All that weight's killin' my gas mileage.”
“You tell me how much it costs and I'll pay you back.”
“Okay, fine. Hey, hey egghead!” Morgan stomped over in his general direction. “How much more gas do a hundred pounds of weights waste?”
Ethan glared at him for what felt like a long time. Morgan even started to think he might have crossed the line and made him mad. But then he said, “...What? I thought we were on vacation.” And the whole hotel room burst into laughter.

It was almost noon by the time Morgan woke up the next morning. Ethan, of course, had been up for hours and was on his computer already, while Al was sleeping on top of the covers, still in his clothes from the day before. “Hey!” he yelled, sitting up, and getting both of them to look in his general direction. “What are we doin' still here? Let's go look around town or go to the beach or somethin'!”
Allen yawned loudly, “Yeah, lemme just take a shower real quick..” and lay back in bed.
“I'll give you a shower in bed if that's what you want,” said Morgan, picking up a glass of water menacingly.
“I'm up, I'm up!” While he stumbled his way to the bathroom, Ethan took off his headphones and started looking for interesting places to go.

They wound up mostly driving around town and finding about half of the places the Internet had said existed closed. But they did manage to find a really good place for supper, and on the drive back, Morgan stopped the car in front of something they hadn't seen on the map. “Hey, look, a fair!” he said. “You wanna go to the fair?”
“Sure, whatever,” said Ethan, shrugging. He'd given up on pretending to hate being here by now, and was mostly just along for the ride.
“Yeah, maybe they've got a strength test,” Allen added, flexing.

On their way in, Morgan said, “Hey, you guys wanna go to the beach tomorrow?”
“I guess we might as well,” said Ethan. “Sun'll do me some good, probably.”
“Heck yeah,” said Al, “I've been training my whole life for showin' off on the beach.”
He raised his arms to flex, but Morgan elbowed him in the side. “Hey, leave
some of the beach babes for me, alright?”

Near closing time at the fair, they ran into one of those “fortune-teller” games, but not one any of them had exactly seen before. It was called “Heart's Desire”, and rather than claiming to tell a person's future it said it could “read and grant your deepest desires...for a price!” Well, the 'price' was apparently only 25¢, so they decided to give it a go.

Allen went first, inserting his quarter and putting his hand on the little crystal orb thing when it lit up. It glowed and pulsed like a blue lava lamp for a moment, and finally the machine spat out a small ticket and shut down. He pulled out the ticket and looked at it. “..Huh.”
“What?” said Morgan, trying to see it over his shoulder.
“Seems kinda weirdly specific,” said Allen, pulling it out of Morgan's sight in the process of handing it to Ethan.
“It says..'You shall lose your most valued asset, but gain that which it never gave you'. That sounds pretty generic to me.”
“Well, you try it then,” he said, half-shoving Morgan at it.
“Okay, okay, sheesh!”

He put his hand on the orb, and could swear he felt a bit of static or something going through his palms when it glowed. Soon another ticket came out, and he read it aloud immediately: “'You shall find yourself surrounded by immaculate beauty but unable to fully appreciate it.' What does that even mean? Am I gonna go into a coma in an art museum?”

“Well, at least it has some kind of edge to it,” said Ethan. “Most things like this will just give good news or generic advice, these sound more like, I dunno, curses? I'm gonna try.” After handing Allen's ticket back to him, Ethan did the same thing and got his own ticket. He read it to them: “'You shall find it harder to gather your thoughts, but easier to keep going.' I wonder what this means...”

“Well, it's just a carnival game,” said Morgan. “It probably doesn't mean anything.”
“Yeah..” Ethan nodded, but pocketed his ticket and frowned.
Al looked around. “Well, looks like they're closin' down anyway. You wanna head back?”
“Yeah, sure.”

They went to bed a little earlier that night, so Morgan was awake only a couple of hours after sunrise. He sat up and yelled “Beach day!” loud enough to possibly wake up their next-door neighbors, and looked around to see Ethan fully dressed and covering his ears, and Allen putting his pillow over his head. “Aww c'mon, we gotta get out there before all the babes leave.”
“I'm pretty sure the women will still be there this afternoon,” said Ethan dryly.
“Yeah, lemme sleep.”
“There's plenty of time for sleep when we get back home!” Morgan pulled at Al's pillow and wound up in a tug-of-war which he of course lost, but in the process Al pulled himself right off the bed and onto the floor with a loud clunk.
After several seconds, he sat up and shrugged. “Well, guess I'm awake now. Dibs on first shower!”
“Hey!” He got the bathroom door shut and locked before Morgan could reach it.
“Glad I take them at night,” said Ethan.
“Like you'd have a problem anyway, as early as you're always up.”

Allen came out already wearing his trunks, and Morgan decided to follow suit after his own shower. Then he stared at Ethan from just inside their hotel room's door, blocking him from leaving, until he shrugged and went to change himself. So they were all in swim trunks and t-shirts on their way down to breakfast, and went out to the car as soon as they were fed.

They walked out onto a beach devoid of people. “Huh...seems pretty empty,” said Morgan, looking around.
“Uuugh, I
told you it was too early,” said Allen.
“No you didn't, you told me 'dibs on first shower'!”
“You know what I—huh?”

Al paused at a lock of hair appearing in front of his eyes, just as his two friends both noticed his hair visibly growing longer. Not just that: Its dark color was lightening, and gaining a bluish tint! “What th..” he started, but then gasped, crossing his arms and shuddering. Suddenly he was starting to shrink, becoming shorter and slimmer all at once. His hair grew out to frame a face that was quickly becoming smaller and rounder; his trunks began to tighten while his shirt split down the middle from the bottom up. Morgan couldn't help but stare in shock as he saw Allen's hard-earned six-pack beginning to fade away, his stomach becoming thinner and flatter by the second, his beefy arms and legs slimming down and steadily losing their tone.

As he changed, Allen made noises: Surprised “Aah”s and “Mmh!”s that were a bit higher in pitch every time one came out. His trunks lost their leggings and became increasingly tight between his legs, showing off a bulge there that was definitely smaller than it should have been, and now became smaller still. He finally stopped getting shorter and thinner once his muscles had completely vanished, along with most of his body and facial hair, and suddenly it occurred to Morgan that his friend was looking...awfully girly now. His head-hair had turned a bright blue color by now, and grown out all the way to his hips..hips that were starting to widen slightly, complementing the inward curve his stomach now had.

Al's shirt had lost its sleeves and most of its collar while Morgan wasn't looking, and now just had a couple of frilly bits of cloth going out from what looked an awful lot like a bra. In fact..he looked down again, and saw that his friend had become completely flat between the legs, the trunks having turned fully into a tight little bikini top that showed off her decidedly female body very well.

The newly-made girl's eyes slowly opened as a flower ornament appeared in her hair, followed by it pulling itself together into a pair of long twintails held together with little ribbons. “I-I..wha..?” she started, her face reddening as she looked up at the two men, and then suddenly burst out into a fit of giggles. Suddenly her chest started to expand forward, pushing and stretching the bikini top as a pair of rapidly-growing bumps. She doubled over in laughter, her slender arms wrapping around herself just under the increasingly large breasts, and then gasped for air as they finally stopped growing, catching her breath as she stood back up, grinning brightly.

Ethan started, “A-Allen..what just—?”
I get it! Ohmygosh, this feels great!” she said, twirling happily in place and then suddenly tackling Morgan into a hug. He awkwardly returned it, unsure of how to feel about his friend's new breasts pressed up against him. “It's a blessing and a curse!” she said, disengaging.
What is? What are you talking about?” said Ethan.
“Dude, you just turned into a
chick!” added Morgan, helpfully.
“I know I know! But like, see, I stopped being buff and all that stuff, 'cause that's what I valued, but I feel...happy! Like, really great!”

You didn't like being strong?” said Ethan, who seemed to have caught on to something Morgan hadn't yet.
Well, I mean I did, but it was always such hard work, and sometimes I didn't feel like it was getting me anything, or like it was any fun. But now..I feel..” she giggled again. “Oh, wait! So, if my ticket thing came true, does that mean you guys' will too?”
Ticket at the fair?” said Morgan. “You think that had something to do with this?”
“I...suppose it makes sense,” said Ethan, putting a hand to his chin. “I mean, it' of what his ticket said.” He suddenly looked around at the beach. “Man, it's really pretty here. I kinda wanna around on the sand, or in the water or something...”

Morgan gave Ethan a very confused look; what had just come out of his mouth sounded nothing like himself. “Uh, are you okay?” he said.
“Yeah, I think so, why?” Ethan tilted his head slightly (also a bit uncharacteristic).
“You were sort of talking weird..”
“It's your ticket!” said Allen, suddenly hopping in front of him. “'Cause you're having trouble concentrating, right?”

“I, uh..yeah, like..I mean...” fumbled Ethan, shaking his head uncertainly. “Hey, I feel kinda strange..” He put his hand up to his face and Morgan noticed that he was beginning to get smaller.
“Dude, y-you're shrinking!” he said.
He looked around. “Hey, yeah, l-look at that,” he said nervously, in a slightly higher voice than before. “I feel really strange down in my, uh..” he said a little more quietly, his voice's pitch changed even more. “Um...”

Ethan's trunks shifted almost instantly into a flowery, frilly bikini bottom, showing that what made him male was rapidly disappearing. Then his shirt started pulling tighter against his body as he continued to get smaller, showing his slight gut slowly sucking itself in and his shoulders narrowing. “Am I gonna, like..” he started, sounding like a young boy, “ a girl...too?” He bent over, looking down at the bikini bottom and the positively tiny bulge within. “Whoa...aaaah...aaaah!” His voice started at the same pitch, then pulled up to about the same range as Allen's, then suddenly went much higher as the bikini visibly flattened between Ethan's legs.

“Ohmygosh, oooh-mygosh!” she said, as her body rapidly changed further to reflect her new sex. Her body hair disappeared, her chest immediately springing forward into a bikini top under her shirt that probably hadn't been there before while her stomach curved inward and her hips and butt pushed their way out. Her hair grew out to her shoulders, not nearly as long as Allen's but enough to frame her suddenly very cute face and make her look very girly; a few little flower hairpins appeared in it as well, which also helped along the impression.

As her breasts pushed out again, growing even bigger than Allen's, Ethan suddenly burst out into her own fit of laughter, but she recovered from it much quicker. “Woo-hoo!” she shouted suddenly, jumping up into the air (which made her new assets bounce around a bit) and waving excitedly. “I feel like I could do anything, like, run a marathon or swim across the whooole ocean! Well, like, maybe not the whole ocean 'cuz that's pretty far, but like, maybe the English channel or something!”

“You're, uh, not upset about suddenly being a chick?” said Morgan, too confused by this whole situation to even be in shock.
“Like, why would I care about that? Besides, I'm kinda good-looking, right?” she said, leaning up at him a bit.
“Um, y-yeah..”

“Soo,” said Allen, “If what that carnival game said about us came true, I guess something might happen to you too?”
“I, hope not?” Morgan realized that the first part already had. Both of his roommates...? Former roommates..? Well, nearby friends at any rate, had suddenly turned into absolutely gorgeous girls. But what did it mean about not being able to fully appreciate it? He looked around apprehensively, worried something terrible was going to happen to him soon. Meanwhile the girls looked at him expectantly, both of them looking less concerned and more just eagerly curious about what would happen next.

And then Morgan started to feel a strange tingling coming across his face. He slowly reached a hand up and felt it, and discovered that his skin there was suddenly soft, silky smooth to the touch, and totally hairless. The tingling started to spread downward. across his neck and shoulders to his arms and torso, and he looked at his arm to see most of its hairs starting to retreat back into his skin, like watching a time-lapse of grass growing in reverse. “Oh..oh no...” he muttered, beginning to suspect that the major theme of his friends' changes was on its way to him.

Indeed, as the tingling spread down through his midsection to his groin and legs, Morgan began to see his friends, and the ground, slowly rising up toward him as he began to lose height. “!” he said, but heard the slightest change in his voice. His trunks began to pull closer against his body, while his shirt split open down the middle, suddenly turning into a short-sleeved cloth jacket. “I..I wanna stay a guy!” he said, his voice noticeably higher now.

Morgan felt a slight squeezing feeling across his body, especially his arms and legs, as he begin to get thinner; he felt hair tickling the sides of his face as it grew out. “M-make it stop..!” he said, as he felt his trunks pull closer between his legs, and the beginning of a gentle tugging down there. The shorts crawled up his legs a bit, not losing their leggings entirely but becoming considerably shorter, while the jacket pulled closer against his arms and shoulders, shrinking along with him.

“Aww, come on, like, it's not that bad,” said Ethan.
“Yeah, it's kinda nice actually,” added Allen, and Morgan looked at her to find to his shock that the top of her head was now his eye level.
“B-but I, I..!” he protested incoherently, his voice sounding like a little boy trying to imitate his father. He felt the tugging between his legs shift into a kind of inward slipping sensation as the tiny shorts his trunks had turned into became steadily more comfortable between his legs; the squeezing sensation had largely stopped, leaving him very slender and feminine in shape, which only got worse as a slight push from his hips signaled their growth outward, along with the rounding out of his bottom.

He looked at the girls again to find he was now the same height as Allen, but everything was still slowly crawling up around him. “N-no...” a low but decidedly girlish voice came from his lips as he felt the sensation between his legs change again, the thing he'd had there all his life starting to get strangely numb. “No..!” Now he was at Ethan's eye level, and still going down...and the shorts pulled snug against Morgan's now-flat groin...!

“Nooooo!” An unmistakably girly voice yelled from Morgan's mouth as she felt something new in place down there, something that signaled the end of her life as a man. She now saw that she was the shortest of the three girls by at least an inch or so, and suddenly felt very small and impotent. But she was distracted from that by the feeling of something pulling itself close around her neck and back, and cloth lightly touching her nipples. She looked down to find that a bikini top had somehow appeared around her still quite flat chest, just in time to start to feel a resurgence of the earlier tingling across her chest.

Two little bumps formed there under the top as the tingling subsided, and then there was another pushing sensation, much stronger than her hips earlier, as the bumps began to expand outward.

“Nn..aah..” Her chest was suddenly very sensitive, and feeling the new skin rub and press against the bikini top gave her strange, unfamiliar sensations down in her new equipment. “..Mnhh..!” She felt her entire face heat up as she realized just how nice those sensations were. And even though the new top from nowhere was growing itself to fit her each time, her new breasts kept straining against it. She kept making those sounds for a good several seconds as they slowly grew into place, until finally there was one especially hard push, along with a surprised “AAAaah!” from her lips as they settled into their final size.

She looked down at her new body with a scowl, still blushing brightly, and glared at the other two girls, angry at...well, at something, anyway! “Wh-why did we have to go to that fair anyway!” she yelled, “I..I didn't wanna, turn into a girl..!” Seemingly out of nowhere, Morgan was on the verge of tears.
“Aww, I'm sorry..” Allen wrapped her arms around Morgan again, and she automatically returned the hug, leaning her head on the slightly taller girl's shoulder and sobbing slightly. She became even more upset as she realized that she was hugging a very pretty girl now, and didn't feel...anything! Well, sure, she could feel Al's new breasts pressing against her, but it was just...yeah, they were there. This blessing or curse or whatever had taken away Morgan's attraction to girls entirely.

But slowly, she pulled herself out of it, sniffing. “Uh, th-thanks, Ally,” she said, and then paused. “I, I mean..” For some reason she felt like Ally really was her friend's name, even though she knew it was Allen. She turned to the other girl, “E-Ella?” she said, and then realized she'd said the wrong name there too. “What's going on?!”
“Like, I think the magic or whatever is changing more than just our bodies, and minds and stuff,” said Ella.

Morgan wasn't sure what she meant at first, but then she started to remember walking onto this beach as a girl...with Ally and Ella, both also girls, of course. And driving here in the same state, and waking up this morning, and all of yesterday, except for seeing that strange machine at the carnival. She wasn't forgetting what had really happened, but somehow her rapidly-forming memories of the past week...month...year, felt rather real.
There was a dazed look on Ally's face, and Ella was tilting her head nearly to a right angle, suggesting they were experiencing much the same thing. She remembered starting college as a girl, and going through high school...puberty...growing up in general. Before she knew it, Morgan felt as if she'd been female her whole life.

Somehow she felt completely sure that if she went back to the hotel, or called home, or drove back to college, everyone else would remember that new version of events. It was hard to put her finger on the source of that confidence, besides just guessing that it was more weird magic stuff. “Ugh..this is even worse, now I can't even prove I used to be a guy,” she moaned.
“But, like, you don't have to explain what's happened to anyone, either,” said Ella.
“It's okay, we've been through the same thing,” added Ally.
“No you haven't! You two got all, giddy and happy when you turned into girls! I just feel like, like I'm suddenly tiny, and w-weak, and an emotional wreck,” said Morgan, her voice cracking near the end as a new crying fit loomed.

“Hey, hey..” Ally put a hand to her face and wiped a few of her tears off, and somehow this did make her feel a little better. “It'll be okay. We're here for ya anyway. Besides, we're at the beach...maybe we can just have some fun?”
“Yeah, yeah!” said Ella, hopping around again.
Morgan sniffed and managed to calm down. “Yeah, I..I guess,” she said, still upset but at least not feeling like she was about to break out sobbing again. “Uh..”

She paused, looking around and discovering the beach suddenly fully populated, just as much as she'd expected when first walking here. “..Where'd all these people come from?”
“My best guess is, like, more magic stuff,” said Ella quietly. And then, “Hey, let's get a photo!” She pointed to a guy sitting at a booth with a camera, and Morgan realized slightly to her own horror that he was kind of..cute? Which meant she was not only not attracted to girls, but was actually feeling very attracted to boys just now.

No sooner had that revelation hit than the excited girl was grabbing her hand and leading her over, Ally following gracefully after them. Before she knew it, Morgan was stuck in the middle of a girl-sandwich pose, simultaneously blushing at the pleasant feeling she'd gotten between her legs when the photographer had called her and her friends gorgeous and frowning at this overall turn of events.

She thought maybe she could find the fair and the game there again, or some other kind of magic stuff, and turn herself back to normal. Her friends were having fun, but she just wanted to go back to being a guy! But then Ella spotted an ice cream stand and she was being pulled along again. “C'mon, like, I'll buy!” she said, and Morgan slid her hand out of the other girl's grip to just walk there herself.

As the day wore on, Morgan kept thinking about turning back to normal...but less and less frequently as her friends kept finding fun things to do to distract her. She really was having fun before long, and soon she found herself enjoying even the compliments from boys on her newfound figure. By the time they drove back to the hotel (and passed the place where the fair had been, at which there was an office building and no evidence of any fairgrounds whatsoever), she was talking and laughing with her friends as if nothing had even happened that day.

The next morning, a few hours after sunrise, Morgan woke up and stretched, and looked around to find Ella hugging her pillow and Ally face-down under the covers. “Hey, wake up!” she said, and Ally pulled the pillow over her head. So she went and pulled at it to get it off, getting into a tug-of-war. “C'mon, we're only gonna be here the rest of the weeeek!” Soon it ended, with both her and her opponent falling back, her landing on her bed while Ally fell over onto the floor.
Ally tossed the pillow but overshot and hit Ella, who popped up and tossed it so it hit Morgan's back. She slowly glared at both of them while picking up her own pillow. “Oh, it's
on!” And then they were suddenly engaged in a pillow fight.

As a boy she'd never really believed this kind of thing happened, but apparently it was a fairly regular part of the three roommates' friendship in this...universe? Version of events? Whatever. At any rate, before long they were all sideways on Morgan's bed in the middle of the room, giggling like crazy.

It was hard to believe she'd ever been mad about turning into a girl; somehow Morgan's “curse” had in the span of a day or so turned into one of the most fun things that had ever happened to her. By the time their vacation was over, the three of them were even better friends than ever, which, to be honest, was Morgan's purpose in taking them along in the first place.