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OverHill

By: Fox Cutter

Part 1

On the face of it, it began as a perfectly normal day in my life, and not on the whole, odd. There was not even the smallest hint that my life would soon be turned on it's ear three times over.

But I'm passing over myself. You quite likely want to know what happened to me that day. So I suppose that as I've started into this narrative I should well be served by telling you.

It began during lunch. Mind you that lunch for me does not consist of sitting down to eat... no, I don't have time for that. I spend my lunch time hiding.

I am, or I suppose I should now say was, just starting my Sophomore year at Greenfields High School. I won't mention the town, or even the state, as I would like to keep some anonymity about my once family.

Myself, I was just a normal teenager... well sorta normal. I had a face that instantly came to peoples' notice. I had fire-red hair that was only manageable when it was below shoulder length combined with deep violet eyes. This combined with a slightly thin face made me look 'pretty' for a guy.

The less intelligent bullies at all my schools homed in on it immediately. The smarter ones just taunted me about it, and never really got to the actually bullying.

Either way, my situation wasn't helped by my not having any interesting in sex. In High School not wanting sex is like not wanting to breathe, it's not done unless you're a fool, or gay.

I quickly was labeled gay.

This gave the gay bashers (and in my town there were a lot of them) a reason to hate me as well. Nothing I could say, or I imagined, do, would change their minds. Sadly this also included someone who had been one of my closest friends throughout most of my life. When he finally decided that I was gay he put me in the hospital with a broken leg and three fractured ribs.

His parents said he was home all that day and didn't touch me, and clearly I was lying about what had happened. Their reasons why I would blame something like that on there son? I tried to seduce him, and he didn't go for it.

I spent the summer in a cast and it wasn't easy to survive. Every time I went away from home I was attacked, either by words, or by fists. It was at that time I really decided to give up fighting it and just worry about surviving.

Now, at the start of this year, I was told that I needed glasses. There was nothing horribly wrong with my eyesight-- I was just a touch far sighted. So I got glasses.

My mom never conceded to letting me get contacts, she thought they were undignified. I ended up with a pair of really thin frame glasses. They looked good on me, they highlighted my eyes, and really made things worse at school.

But enough about how I got to where I was, the important thing to keep in mind was it was lunch time, which usually meant organized (not to mention ignored) violence. So I was hiding, and I had actually found a good place to perch myself during the hour break.

Perch was almost quite literally right. I was sitting on the top corner of the library's roof. The building was two stories tall and was higher than anything else at the school. It was the perfect hiding place, no-one ever looks up.

I had found this place three weeks before, after a nice long round of being punched. I found myself behind the library, laying on my back and looking up at an old rusted ladder. It was hidden behind some shrubs and the ivy that climbed the walls of every building in town. I only actually saw a few inches that had been scraped clean from the impact of my body being through thrown against it.

So, weak and weary, I pulled myself up to the roof, and lay down in the noonday sun. After a few minutes I sat back up and rubbed away some of the pain from my bruises.

Once, a friend of mine told me that if she had to put up with as much crap as I did day-in and day-out she would pack up and leave. She said she wished she could be as strong as I was.

It really wasn't a matter of being strong, or even tougher than the bullies; it was how I was raised. "Howard's never quit!" my dad would cry out whenever things started to seem like quitting was better.

It was how he tried inspired my sister and me, using that simple phrase when it needed to be said. It did not become a guilt type of a thing, or something to hate or fight against. It was when I felt like quitting was what we needed to do that he would lean over my shoulder and whisper those words.

You know what? It worked. I would get the 'that's right!' light bulb over my head, cheering up instantly. I would dive into what ever it was with zeal and get it done.

Even now that I know the truth, I still hear the words, and they still feel the same.

It was there, that day, looking out over the school, the old brick fading in the sunlight, that I realized that I didn't want to give my life up. Sure, most people would think of it as a living hell, but it was my life, and I would be damned if I was going to give it up or change it for anyone or anything!

I just didn't realize how soon I would be called upon to defend those words.

The day in question though, which I keep dancing around, was not that day, it was just the precursor to everything that has happened to me since.

Sitting there, on that roof, I heard what I had hoped I could avoid for a while longer.

"There you are Lithy-boy," Mike Ryans said in his ever-so-deathly-annoying sing-sing voice. I hated the nickname he used, but most people preferred to shorten my name, which was Lithanial.

Slowly I turned to look at him. He was only a few feet away from me, with that 'oh I'm such a clever little boy' grin on his face. You know, the same kind you see on a baby who's just filled his diapers and is quite happy about it.

"I see you've finally mastered the concept of 'up'," I told him as I stood.

Mike's face contorted as he quickly understood the nature of my insult. "You little queer punk," he growled, most every muscle in his quite massive body clenching to attack me.

I steered. "What happened, did you finally noticed the little birdies when you got knocked to the ground during the last game?"

He seemed to double in mass as he grew even more angry than before. Mike was the varsity football team's star Quarterback, and during the last game had fallen over himself and fumbling the ball. It wasn't actually much of a fumble, it went right into the hands of the other team and then into their in-zone, losing the game for the school.

As a result, my comment caused him to build up quite a bit of anger. Which was exactly what I wanted. I did except him to finally find me up on that roof, and had come up with a plan to at least get away before I was thrown off.

Which I didn't have any more time to deliberate over as Mike had started his attack. He lunged towards me, the full force of his body aimed for where my chest was. I was already running away from him and towards the far side of the roof before he even had moved even a few feet.

In his anger it took him a few seconds to comprehend that I wasn't now under him. Looking around he saw me on the far side of the roof, smiling at his stupidity. He charged again, his fist cocked back to take a swing at me once he got close enough.

The plan was that he would not get close enough, that at the last second I would dive away and he would smash his feet into the access hatch inside the building and come tumbling down, or at least jump around in pain a bit.

It should have worked, and was doing just fine until the diving away part. It was then I found that one of my shoes had come unlaced. I discovered this as I caught the free lace with my other foot and fell forward. My face, quite literally, connected with his fist and all without him even having to swing.

I won't go into the details of exactly what happened, as it's not really worth it. I'd rather not remember entirely all that he did to me. Let's just leave it that I finally noticed I wasn't being pummeled anymore close to an hour later.

Even then though, my mind still wasn't in much of a working order. I just wanted to get off the roof and some place where I could get patched up... home, preferably.

I dragged myself across the roof, with the foolish notion that I would be able to climb down the ladder. As punch-drunk as I was, it sounded like a perfectly reasonable idea.

Trying to stand up, I started to lower myself down the first few rungs of the ladder. It was then that my hand slipped on my own blood and my life got interesting.

As I fell back, I swung my arms, trying to grab the ladder again. I never came close as I tumbled backwards head first, fall down about fifteen feet.

I didn't have time to yell, scream, or react in any way other that to observe that I was going to make an interesting splat with my head on a nice flat rock below me, and that Mike would never even be talked to about this.

I also started to wonder why the ground had stopped about a foot from my head. Given the laws of gravity, things like that didn't normally happen. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had gotten myself caught up in the ladder some how.

That didn't wash either. I was hanging two feet away from the wall. Finally I twisted around enough so I could see what had stopped my fall.

Nothing--nothing at all. I was hanging in mid-air! As this realization came so did the return of gravity. I was quick enough to see it and protect my head as I landed in a bruised heap on the ground.

With a moan of pain, I slowly rolled over onto my back. 'Talk about missing the ground.' I thought to myself as I stared into the sky.

I didn't know what to make of what had just happened to me. It was idiotic to say the least, and pretty much delusional, but it had happened!

Katarina would know. Kat was one of those people who knows close to everything about all the strange stuff that happens in the world, or nothing as everyone else says it. She would have some idea as to what had happened to me.

Though not about what was to happen to her...


Part 2

Katarina was an interesting lady, already at that coveted age of eighteen, she didn't seem to care much about it. She was one of the more popular girls in school, mostly because as all the football jocks got the air-headed cheerleaders, most of the normal guys in school wanted something that passed for a brain.

Kat had a lot in the way of brains... though still not very many dates. She cared too much about being the witch she claimed to be to spend much time on such things as dates and sex. Kind of like myself, actually.

She at least seemed to have a good working knowledge of strange things... like what happened to me. She got it mostly from reading every book on witchcraft, magic and the occult she could find. She had a collecting of about two hundred of them, and had read them all cover to cover.

Kat, herself wasn't very odd looking. She was kind of shy, but had the most beautiful hair I have ever seen. It was very soft and perfectly black; she almost never cut it, so it hung down to her rear end. She mostly kept it pulled back into a prodigious pony tail, but when she let it flow it was amazing.

The rest of her wasn't as perfect as her hair. She stood about five foot eight and was kind of thin, a good body, though not with very many curves. She, just as I, wore glasses, but for her it was a necessity as she was deathly farsighted. Somehow though, the glasses she had found looked great on her, even if they were a quarter of an inch thick.

With all that in mind, she seemed to me to be the natural choice to talk to about my little flying trick. Though I somehow doubted that she could come up with an explanation, she should have some ideas as to cause.

I just needed to find her. The rest of the school day was out of the question, I would be sent to the Vice-Principle Kenny "If you're not rich or a jock, I don't care" Dunbridge for running into Mike's fist. Though this would be the first time that I actually had!

So I managed to spend the day behind the library, licking my wounds (quite literally too, I had nothing else to clean myself up with). Once the final bell rang and most of the mindless fashion drones had gone off to the mall or someplace, I limped out into the open.

I didn't have to go far to find Kat, she found me. As I was walking down the side of the gym she was suddenly at my shoulder and in time with me.

I smiled a bit. "Just who I was going to see."

She pushed some of her hair back out of her eyes and ignored my statement. "I noticed you had bailed from sixth period, I figured the Dork Death Squad had found you. I didn't think it would be this bad."

I chuckled softly. "No, just Mike, and before you ask, I tripped."

She stuck her arm under mine, helping me walk. "Must have been a bad fall."

I gave her a sideways glance. "You have no idea," my voice suddenly became deadly serious.

Kat reacted to that instantly, "What happened?"

"I will impart the knowledge to you when we get to your house."

She smiled. "Oh, impart the knowledge! I feel really special now," she said with a snicker.

Ok, so my language was a little more classical than was safe in this day and age, but when I had nothing else to do but read... well, I read.

We reached her car shortly after that. Kat was a senior, and, as I said before, eighteen. I'm only seventeen myself. The reason for my only being in Tenth grade was that I spent my normal second grade year in the hospital, learning to walk again after my whole family had been in a car wreck. It's also the reason why I don't have a younger brother.

Anyway, I settled down into the passenger's side while she slipped behind the wheel and started the car. Driving off to her parents house I finally got a chance to clean up most of myself with the first-aid kit Kat normal keep in the car. I didn't have too much actual damage, just a lot of blood on my face from where I had cut my scalp. It had closed over already but I was going to need to see a doctor about getting it stitched up.

"That's a bad one."

I nodded, "Think your mom can patch me up?"

"Without telling yours? Maybe, I'll have to talk to her."

I sat back in the seat, holding a bandage to my head and taping it to my skin so it would stay there.

After a minute Kat asked, "so, who found you?"

I chuckled, "The fingerless wonder, Mike."

Kat frowned, "Did he surprise you?"

Settling in I smiled. "Nope, he's too dumb to be quiet. The whole plan worked wonderfully until I tripped over my shoelace."

She winched as she pulled into the driveway. "So what made you get so serious?"

"What happened later," I said, pulling myself out of the car.

She got out herself and looked at me over the car's roof. "Care to tell me?"

I closed the car door. "Inside."

She frowned at me. "Lithanial, I don't like it when you act like this."

I rubbed my shoulder as I walked to the front door. "I don't either, but that's beside the point." I caught the keys as she threw them to me. We had done this in and out business so many times that something as little as a conversation wouldn't get in its way.

Before she could reply I opened the door and stepped inside the house. She came in right after me and called for her parents. No answer came.

She shrugged, "Mom will be home soon, she can fix you up then."

I nodded, starting up the steps to the second floor, and her room. "All right then."

"So," Kat asked as she followed a few steps behind me, "What happened?"

"I fell."

She coughed. "Yes, you've mentioned that."

I shook my head. "Off the roof."

She took in a sharp breath. "And you didn't break anything? Damn you're lucky."

I shook my head again we went into her room. "I didn't hit the ground."

She smiled a bit as she sat on her bed. "Did you land on Mike?"

I thumped down in her window seat, moving a few of her stuffed foxes out of the way. "No... I didn't land either."

She frowned for a few seconds, puzzling this over. "Then what exactly happened?"

I ran my fingers through my hair. "I was floating a few feet from the ground."

She coughed again. "You mean you got caught up in something, right?"

"No Kat, I looked. I was well away from the wall, ladder, or anything else. I was hanging free in mid-air."

With a sigh she walked over to me and placed a hand on my shoulder. "Levitation? You? Is this some kind of a joke?"

I shook my head. "No, that's what happened."

"Listen you bird-brain, you would have--" Her voice suddenly was cut off sharply and a jolt ran down my back. She continued talking a few seconds longer before she even noticed that she wasn't. She reached for her throat, but that didn't help any. Her air passages weren't blocked, and she was breathing easily.

She gave me a panicked look as things started to happen to her. It was as if her body was starting to melt, little flaps of her skin starting to lift as her teeth seemed to force there way farther out of her mouth.

It was horrifying and revolting, I had to turn away from her, not wanting to see anymore. For close to a minute I could hear her behind me, her body thrashing on the floor and twice she kicked me at the base of my spine.

I waited a further minute after the noise behind me stopped, slowly counting my heart-beat as it thundered in my ears. Finally I allowed myself to turn around to see what had happened to my friend.

She wasn't there to start with. Her clothing was strewn out over where she had been, and her glasses had found there way next to my feet.

"Katarina?" I asked softly, gently rolling the word over my tongue.

The response to my call was instantaneous, and not what I expected. There was a squawk from just under the bed. Bending down on my hands and knees to investigate.

Huddled just under the edge was a bird, a large raven I believe, and it was shaking softly.

I frowned. "Kat?"

The bird turned it's head towards me, and clearly, unmistakably, nodded.

"Oh, hell," seemed to be a good of summation as any.


Part 3

"All right," I muttered to myself as I starred down at Kat's so very altered form. "My best friend has been turned into a raven... I can handle this." I looked back to at Kat. Heaving a sigh, I fell back onto the bed, "Right, sorry, I meant I can *not* handle this."

Kat, for her part, some how hopped herself on to the bed, without actually flapping her wings (assuming she even knew how to use them that is). She walked right over and looked me as straight in the eyes as she could manage. She clacked her beak at me then started stomping over towards the nightstand.

I sighed again, and sat up, watching her progress. "I don't suppose you have any ideas how to fix this? You are the self-proclaimed witch after all."

She cawed at me as she hunkered down, then leapt about five feet over her nightstand and onto her dresser, actually gliding the last foot or so. Her landing, on the other hand, was terrible; she landed on her belly, skidded about a foot and bopped her head on the mirror hanging on the wall.

In spite of myself I laughed softly. Kat glared at me as she righted herself, cawing in clear annoyance.

I lowered myself down to her eye level. "Right then, sorry about that, but it was funny. Now, what is your idea?"

She clawed at the table bending her body to look over the edge.

"You have to be more direct here," I said, not having a clue as to what she was trying to tell me.

She hunkered down a bit, and pecked at the top drawer of her dresser. I slid it open, inside was a clutter of different bits of junk, a few shiny rocks, some jewelry, a few books, and a scarf.

I spread my hands. "Okay, now what?"

She jumped into the drawer and dug around through the mounds of junk with her beak, finally she cawed again, pecking at a small book.

Picking it up around her, I found that it was an address book about an inch thick. As I flipped through it I saw that it was mostly full. I set it down next to her, opened to the front page, so all the little tabs that had the alphabet were showing.

"Which one?"

She looked over them, cocking her head, her eyes slowly flickering past each letter. Finally she settled on the T-U tab. I flipped it to the marked section, finding about five full pages of names.

"I didn't know you knew so many people." She nodded slightly. "Right then, make some noise if the last name starts with a T."

She shook her head, keeping silent.

I flipped though the pages, finding all the U people. Both of them. "Ok, Is it..." I glanced at the page, "Sythia Underwood?" She shook her head.

I tapped the second name in the book. "It's Viola Unger then?"

Kat cawed once more.

I frowned, looking at the phone number. I didn't recognize the area code, and the address put it over a thousand miles away. "You want me to call her, don't you?"

She nodded.

Picking up her phone, I punched in the number. After a trio of rings it finally was picked up.

"Hello, Katarina," A soft voice on the other end of the line said. I figured she had out of area caller-ID.

I coughed into the mouth-piece. "I'm not Kat, ma'am."

There was a slight pause on the other end. I hoped whoever it was didn't decide to hang up on me. Finally she started to speak again. "Then who are you? And why are you calling me from Katarina's home?"

I sat back down on her bed. "I'm Lithanial Howard, I'm one of her friends, and I'm calling because Kat asked me to."

"Why are you calling for her? That's not really like her." The lady on the other end was starting to sounded worried.

I glanced down at Kat, who had moved to stand next to me, she nodded slightly, as if knowing what I was thinking (though I expected she could hear the conversation).

"Well, ma'am... she's a bird currently."

There came a deep pause over the line, it only lasted a few seconds, but it seemed to stretch out much longer. Finally she spoke again. "Explain please."

I frowned. "She just turned into a raven."

"What was going on at the time?"

I thought for a few seconds, "I was telling her about something a bit strange that had happened to me today, and poof."

"Just 'poof'?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am."

A sigh came filtering over the phone line. "Very well then, I need the pair of you to come see me soon as you can. Within a day at most."

I coughed, "Ma'am, I just can't hop around the country like that without much notice."

"You will," Her voice was suddenly very stern. "If you want to get Katarina back to herself. I'll wire you some money for the tickets, and you should have my address. I don't care how you do it, but you have to, for both of your sakes." With that the conversation ended as she hung up the phone.

Letting the phone drop back into it's cradle, I looked down at my friend. "Looks like we're going on a trip."

She nodded, her feathers ruffling a bit.

I fell back on her bed, and dropped my fingers against my temples. "Well, it is Friday, so we at least have the full weekend to try and do this."

Kat nodded a bit.

"You know, I've always hoped that I could live my life without ever going to New York City."

She nodded again, I didn't like the city myself, and more so, I didn't like flying. We had no choice though, at least to hear Viola (or who I assumed was Viola) tell it.

Sitting back up, I ran my fingers though my hair. "Right then, I suppose we have to do this."

Kat seemed to agree.

* * *

It was sadly simple to clear things with my family. Mother was giving a lecture out of town, and would be gone for the weekend. Father was a bit more energetic, when I informed him of my cover story, that Kat and I where going over to the next town for the sci-fi convention, and would be gone all weekend, he just suggested I pick up a box of condoms.

That's my dad for you.

The money was waiting for me at the airport and I got the first flight to the Big Apple core. Kat, much to her very loud annoyance, had to ride in a cage in the belly of the plane. We finally left the ground at just after five PM my time, and arrived at JFK airport at close to eleven, that is counting the time zone changes.

After retrieving Kat and what little luggage I had with me, I stuck up my chin and prepared to hail a taxi, hoping for the low odds of one who spoke English.

I rather prefer the London cabbies myself.

Just as I lifted my arm to try and single one, it was forced back down by a middle-aged lady with blue eyes so deep I could see them in the half light I was standing in.

"You must be Lithanial," she said, her voice the same one as the person who had answered the phone just hours ago.

I nodded to her, "Yes, ma'ma. I assume you are Viola."

"That would be a safe assumption on your part," she said as she bent down to look into Kat's cage. Kat jumped happily as they looked into each other's eyes. "You did not understate the case when you said she had become a bird."

I bent down to look at her, keeping the cage level. "Why would I? And how exactly did you find us?"

She paused, looking me over through the slats of the cage. "As much as rudeness will be expected in your future, I do suggest you try to show those who are wiser than you due respect. As for how I found you, I trained Katarina for three years, I could feel her as she come closer to me."

I frowned, "Trained her in what?"

Kat turned to look at me, cawing softly, her feathers ruffling along her neck.

Viola laughed. "Take that for what it is, son. Come now, we must move to my apartment." She stood as she spoke, then threw out her hand. A taxi come to a stop seconds later. She calmly opened the door as the drive asked. "Where to, lady?" a perfect master of the English language.

Sliding inside she gave her address, then looked down to where I was still crouched. "Coming?"

I looked at Kat, then shrugged, standing up and sliding inside, setting my one bag between us, and Kat on my lap.

"How did you do that?" I whispered to Viola.

She gave me a smile. "What, don't the taxi drivers normally know the city and speak English?"

I raised my eyebrows. "In a word, no."

She laughed again, "All in good time son, all in good time."

That was the end of the conversation for the next twenty minutes or so. No more then a few words were exchanged until we finally entered her apartment and she had closed the door.

The main room was rather... well... normal. As a friend of Kat's I had expected more than a dusty old couch, a couple chairs, a TV, bookcases, and a snake in a cage. It looked like anyone's front room.

I started to set my bag down when Viola set her hand on my shoulder. "No, not yet. I do hope you have her clothing in that bag."

"Yes," I said, with that 'what do you think I am, a jock?' tone in my voice.

"Good," she said with a smile. "Now, follow me." Then with a grand gesture, she opened her front door once again.

This time there was not an off-white hallway lined with doors outside, it was... well, I'm not sure what it was. It looked like a park of some kind, and it was lighted as if late morning, where it was midnight on our side.

I stood amazed, looking through the door, until I was yanked though it by Viola, who shut the door behind us. Now inside I was able to get a better look at where I now was.

I was at the edge of a large glade, maybe twice the size of a normal football field, and perfectly circular. The edge was marked by a wall of huge trees, each one nearly twenty feet thick. They were perfectly spaced at ten feet from each other, and a few feet behind them started a second row. Every now and then an animal would walking past, and a large buck, with a huge rack, was slowly grazing just inside the glade.

The glade was covered in a thick carpet of a grass like moss that glinted like it was covered with the early morning dew. The only things to mar the rolling field ware a few giant stumps, and some boulders.

Turning around, I looked at Viola. She was smiling at me, resting her back against a door frame that was standing by it self about twenty feet from the forest edge.

"Where is this?" I asked in awe.

She walked past me, and I turned and started to follow. "This, is the Glade-o-the-Wood, one of the few pure centers of magic on this world."

I slumped down on the stump that she stopped at. "Magic?"

She nodded, sitting next to me and taking Kat's cage from my limp fingers. "Yes, Magic. How else can you explain Kat's change?"

I frowned, I couldn't think of any other way. "So we're here to fix her?"

Viola suddenly glared at me, letting Kat out of the cage. "No, we are here to unto what *you* did to her"

The force of her words was enough to make me fall off the stump and onto the ground. Slowly sitting up, I made an idle note that the dew didn't stick to my clothing, but that wasn't my main concern.

"Me?! How could I do this?!"

She looked to at me, as she ran her fingers though Kat's feathers. "You said you were talking to her right before she changed."

I nodded, understanding what she was getting at. "But how could I do something like this?"

"For the same reason that your eyes are now glowing," she said, handing me a small mirror she had removed from some place in her clothing.

I only had to glance into the mirror for an instant to see that my eyes were indeed glowing a shade of dark violet behind my glasses. I just set the mirror down on the stump.

"You are magic, son," Viola continued, "and very dangerously so. If you could just transform her without your own knowledge, I would hate to think of what else could may happen."

I nodded, finding that I was shaking. "Liking telling someone to drop dead."

"May cause exactly that, yes." She snatched my right hand and set it on Kat's back, holding it there with her's. There came a shock, like a jolt of electricity through my hand. I pulled away, shaking my fingers softly.

"What was that?" I started to ask, but never got past the first syllable. The answer was quite obvious as Kat's form started to swell, her feathers already thinning out.

I dug into the bag, quickly pulling out her underwear, then the rest of what she had been wearing before. Just as I got to her glasses they were plucked from my fingers.

Looking up, I looked right into Kat's eyes as she adjusted her glasses. She was back to human again, though not dressed yet. Which, once I noticed it, caused me to turn away, blushing deeply.

After a minute I felt Kat's hand on my shoulder.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know." I whispered.

Kat moved to stand in front of me. "It's all right, it was an accident."

Viola coughed, "Actually, it's not all right," she said, moving to stand next to me.

I nodded. "Yes, but what do we do about it?"

She touched my shoulder. "Train you."

I looked up at her, suddenly finding myself getting angry. "Train me? In a weekend? You're nuts!"

Kat look at Viola, a worried look flashing across her face. Viola didn't seem to notice. "It will be easy."

"Easy!" I scoffed, "It would be like herding cats!"

It took about a second and a half for me to realize what had happened as I felt my neck go tight as I started to change. It was... painless, as I felt no pain, but I did feel the sickening sensation as my bones moved against each other, cracking and shrinking, the pins and needles feeling as fur sprouted from my skin, or any of a thousand other things that happened.

I was glad when it was finally over. I looking up at the pair of ladies from where I was buried in my clothing, quite sure I was now a house cat.

Viola bent down to look at me. "You have until Sunday afternoon to find a way to undo this, after that people will start to miss you."

I tried to protest, but could only get a strangled mewing sound.

"It's not that hard," she explained, "you felt it when I undid Katarina. Try to find that feeling in yourself and use it. Here in the Glade it will be a lot easier than outside of it."

I sighed, and nodded. I guess it was an effective way to teach me how to undo the transformations, if they ever happen again.

I just wasn't damn happy about the method she chose to teach it.


Part 4

To be blunt, it was Sunday morning and I was still a feline. It was not for lack of trying mind you, I've been working very hard at becoming human again. I didn't like having four legs and being so bugger small.

Kat, for her part, seemed to find it funny as I tried to move around the Glade, hoping through the grass, more often than not landing on my nose or rear or back or anything else. Whoever said that cats landed on their feet had never seen me.

Despite that, I had spent some time exploring the Glade. I had even tried to explore past it, but found that on the other side of the row of trees that surrounded the Glade was the far side of the Glade. Viola explained that as I had come in through the door, I wasn't allowed out of the Glade without a special spell.

Katarina had been nice enough to bring me bits of things to eat and talk to me through out the weekend. The more interesting things that she told me was the history of the Glade and the Earth's magic.

From my understanding of it, there are two planes of Earth. Though in my opinion it's more like two sides of a coin. On the top side is the 'Real' world, the one I had spent all my life living in. It was grounded very solidly in the physical side of life, with very fixed forms and rules. Not to mention actually being part of the rest of the universe (as well as having the sun, which is why I call it the top).

On the other side of the coin is the world of spirits and mist, better know was UnderHill. Home of more types of fey than I know of. Elves and even Kitsune (what ever they are; Kat seems to love them). There are no hard and fast rules there either, each area is shaped to the creators' wants and desires. There were a lot of domains, separated from each other by distance and the mist of the unformed. Some sort of magic was used to move from realm to realm, I just didn't understand the exact means.

From what I was told, once, about a thousand or more years ago, the two sides were once a whole. There was a Covenant of some sort between the Humans and the Elves, which was very cleanly broken by a human king. The Elves started out to destroy all humans and take the world as their own. A group of people somehow changed their minds, instead cause the planes to be split.

Earth was changed there after, from they very prosperous and populated world that it had been to what history records it to be. The population's memory changed as well, mostly. The magic users remembered though, and kept most of the old history preserved as well as they could.

Think about it, why else would there be such a big market in fantasy?

The Glade-o-the-Wood was best described as the edge of that coin. A single place that was shared by both worlds, located on a nexus of power which was why it had such strong magic. If you knew the right spells you could go anywhere in UnderHill or on Earth from this one place.

A fact which frankly made my hair stand on end.

I was also informed there was a lot more magic out in the world than people really cared to know about. Vampires and Werewolves, Demons and Demon Hunters (which were properly called O-Saukie, which I thought sounded like some kind of sushi).

In another way of looking at the facts given, it's really quite amazing that the world is so rich in magic and those who can use it, just as most of us had suspected at one time or another in our lives. There are so many people who can use this raw energy of the universe that even if they are still a very small fraction of the population, they could have a very considerable effect on reality.

And I, much to my greater annoyance, was one of them.

With a mental sigh I uncurled from where I had been laying, in the shade of a large stump off to one side of the Glade. Stretching myself out I jumped (or tried to at least) onto the stump, scrambling to get my rear end over the edge.

Sitting in the center of the stump I closed my eyes and tried to block out any outside noise. Concentrating on my heartbeat I slowly put myself into a shallow trance. Not enough to do 'hypnotic' suggestions, but deep enough so that my thoughts would be focused like a lens, creating a single point of though, bright and hot like a candle flame, burning at one single problem.

With the fire of pure thought burning behind my eyes, I created a picture in my mind. Myself, in my current form. Overlaying it I created a picture of my real self. It was light, barely a whisper of shape and a fog of colour. Carefully I changed the two images. The one of me as a cat slowly fading out into a ghost, while the real picture of me grew solid, becoming more real with each passing heartbeat.

Once the transition was complete, I focused my mind on it, pushing it through, trying to make the magic work again. I felt a slight tingle emanating from my paws and slowly working up my legs into my ears.

Then, just as quickly as it came, it faded, nothing having changed at all. I pondered this for a second, trying to decided what other part of the process I could change. It was cut short by a soft tap on my head.

It almost shocked me out of my trance. If that tap had been any stronger, it would have. Taking a deep breath I slowed my heart down to something manageable, then very carefully brought myself out of it and back into the real world.

Cracking one eye I looked around the Grove. I was mad at whoever had touched me. You don't startle a person out of a trance, it's not healthy for either party involved. That was doubly true when the woken party had claws.

My eyes finally came to rest on Kat, setting just a few feet away on the other side of the stump. Twisting my ears I gave her my best 'that wasn't very nice' look. I wasn't mad at her though, she knew I could trance myself and also how to bring me out of it. She knew exactly how much she needed to tap me to get my attention with out hurting me.

She sighed, shaking her head at me. "You'll never get back to normal like that."

I snuffed a bit.

Moving closer to me, she continued. "Lith, you don't force magic into a mold and tell it to work. You have to let it flow and form in into something, liking molding clay. You're body is a channel for that power to run though. You must let it flow first before you can change it."

I tilted my head just slightly to one side.

"Reverse what you're doing, let the magic flow then shape it."

I nodded to her, understand what she had told me, at least mostly. Closing my eyes again I started to re-enter my trance.

"No," Kat said, her hand suddenly resting on the back of my neck. "Don't trance yourself. Focusing your mind will just make it harder."

Giving a mental sigh, I opened my eyes again and tried to do this with out that focus. Feeling the magic around me I tried to gather it up, molding it into a mental faucet and turning it on to just a small trickle.

The tingling instantly returned to me, covering my body in and instant and staying there, prickling my skin. Just outside of my vision I could see a red and blue blur glowing softly, pulsing in time with my heart.

I started to create the image of myself as a cat once again, building it up in my mind's eyes, but with much less detail than before. I couldn't focus on it, parts of it blurred out while others became clear. It was about to give it up for a loss with inspiration struck me. I wasn't working with the magic, I was trying to make a mold to put it in.

I looked once again at the blur in my eyes, focusing on it with my mind's eye. It could feel it now, a spark of energy and life, glowing and struggling in my hands. Unshaped, formless, ready to be molded into what ever I wished it to be.

Reaching out with my mind I shaped it into myself, as I was, a small cat. Slowly I reshaped it, folding it, expanding it, until I looked like the real me. Everything was perfect, the form was solid. There was just one final thing I needed to do.

I let it go.

Suddenly I fell over onto the grass. Laying down on my belly, I could feel myself. I was back to a human again, not to mention nude. But I had done it, I had changed myself back! More than that though, I had *used* magic! Willingly, knowingly, I had controlled it!

Even now I could feel it, glowing around me. Standing just out of the corner of my eye, waving in jest. It wasn't just a power, a thing. It was a living energy, it was the form of life itself that could be used and adapted to most anything.

I was excited! I was energized! I was... still naked. Looking up I saw Kat smiling down at me. "I don't suppose you could hand me some clothing?" I asked with a slight smile.

She vanished for a few seconds and threw a bundle of clothing in my face. Then thankfully turned her back to me. Quickly I put my clothing back on, adjusting it as I went. Perching my glasses over my ears and running my fingers through my hair, I coughed slightly to get her attention.

Turning around she stood up and hugged me. "Felling better now?"

I nodded. "This is... amazing... I can feel the magic around me."

She frowned. "Put up a wall between you and the magic, now."

Seeing the growing look of panic in her eyes I reached for the magic once again. Rebuilding it this time into a wall of brick and steel around myself, hiding the magic from view. Once I let it go the feeling of the magic faded into almost nothing. It was still there, hiding. I would have to go over the wall to use it, but it was still there.

I nodded. "It's built. Now why?"

"Because," Viola said, walking up to us. "If you can feel magic it can feel you. You would glow like a beacon to anyone who cared to look. A very dangerous thing."

I rubbed my chin, finding that I didn't need to shave. "Why?"

She gave me a stern look. "Magic is a very delicate thing. People want us for it, want to use us to reach their goals. If you can't hide your magic they will find you."

"Oh... I see," I said with a frown.

Kat continued. "Keep that wall up at all times Lith. It will take some learning, but it will become a part of you in time. It will hide you from the magic, as well as keep any more accidents from happening again."

"Yes, that would be a good thing."

Viola placed her arm over Kat's shoulder. "Come now, we have much to discuss as well as getting you home." She turned to me, holding my shoulder gently as she walked towards the doorway out of the Glade. "You're old to be coming into your power son. You have a wild magic that needs to be tamed. I should be the one to teach you, but I can not. We're too far apart for that to happen easily."

"So we have come to a decision," Kat said, opening the door and stepping into Viola's apartment. We followed her in and I closed the door behind myself, feeling a light spark of power as the magic on the door faded.

I sat down on the couch, pushing my glasses up my nose. "And that would be?"

Kat sat down next to me. "I will teach you the basic parts of the craft. How to use it and how to hide it."

Viola continued, "She is the most qualified to teach you. Your area is thin in the way of Witches and Wizards. So even though she is still a student herself she will be your mentor and Master."

Katarina started to chuckle into her hand, but Viola silenced her with a stern look. "You will also attend my training sessions with Kat. It will be an unbalanced education, but you cannot safely live without it."

"You mean, come back to the city again?" I asked, feeling a bit horrified.

She laughed softly. "No. In the Glade. Kat will teach you the spell to get there, but that is for when you return home. For right now you must be off to catch your flight."

That was the end of the conversation right then and there. Five minutes later Kat and I were in a taxi to the airport and an hour after that were on our way back home.

It was definitely an interesting weekend, and to be followed by an interesting week...


Part 5

My family was rather nonchalant about my weekend trip. Dad just snickered when I told him nothing happened. Trini, my sister, just ignored it. She was a year older than I was and taking classes at the local community collage. At eighteen this kind of weekend trip was pretty much normal for her.

So all seemed to be as it should at the Howard family home. Though Mom wasn't back from her trip yet, she was expected back early tomorrow morning. I suspected that she wouldn't hear much about it and if she did, she would be very quick to let me know.

Personally, I wasn't doing so well. I was still badly shaken by the changes in how I looked at myself, as well as the universe as a whole. Even though most of my life would stay the same, a lot would be different.

First there were my lessons with Kat. Not that I minded her teaching me how to use magic, it was just going to be something extra that I needed to learn.

Then there were the extended lessons with Viola once a month. Those weren't going to really be all that bad, I hoped. Kat would help me make sense of all that would be going on because, as she told me on the plane back, it's 'way over my head'.

There were also the duties I'd have to perform now that I knew about my magic--a phrase which still sounded strange to my ears. Most of it really was small stuff, generally keeping the world a nice and happy place to live. Which, loosely translated, meant I was going to being a non- fanatical environmentalist.

Generally, though, it was just to help and heal as needed (apparently one out of every ten psychologist over in L.A. is magical).

Then there was the big stuff. The 'end of the world as we know it' type stuff. From what Kat told me, it usual involved going against a group, or at times a person, who was very much Evil and usually had some sort of grandiose plan.

Last time a grouping of that caliber was needed was in 1939. The good guys won, but at a cost of some very evil magic being throwing over Europe and a few other nearby places, escalating the evil already thriving in the area.

What got me most was the bloody damn wall between me and the magic. Whenever I let my mind drift for a few minutes, the wall would start to cracks. I was getting better at keeping it up, mostly without thinking about it, but it wasn't easy.

It wasn't helping me sleep, either.

Every time I would start to drift off the wall would snap, shattering inside of my mind. The pain this flooded me with was more than enough to keep me awake and start my head pounding.

Eventually I just gave up trying to get any sleep at all. Instead I decided that I needed to go someplace private and finally think over all that had happened to me. So, dressing quickly, I slipped out my bedroom window and into the crisp night air of mid-fall.

It wasn't very hard to get out of the house. It was only a single level, so I had a short drop to the ground. Once out I found that I didn't have anyplace I knew of where I could go and think safely.

Normally I would go to the public library, which was only a few miles away. It was so large that it had a dozen and one places where no one bothered to go, like back in the dark corners where you could find things like the dictionary from 1950 and encyclopedias talking about the air on Venus. The fact that it was two in the morning did make it quite useless for me.

I could think of only one other place near me where I could be alone. That was back on top of the school's library. It was only a half an hour away by foot, and wasn't guarded in any noticeable fashion.

So, I started on my merry little way. The night air was cold and steadily getting colder. Even though the weather was warm for late October, it was still chilly enough for me to start shivering halfway to the school.

It was finally starting to sink in about how stupid an idea it was to go anywhere this time of night without some kind of coat, when I suddenly realized that I might have a way to help myself.

Stopping at one of the corners, I leaned up against an old elm tree that had been there for as long as almost everyone could remember.

Gently, I reached a hand over my wall and sank it into the magic. Once more I felt it's touch flow over my body, causing my skin to tingle softly. It tinged my vision just slightly, just a very light green color on my left side. Gently, I molded it into a kind of a full body wrap for myself, made of a soft heat, enough to keep me warm.

Letting the magic go, my cloak snapped into place, the chill quickly seeping from my body. I stretched my arms out then with a smile started back home. I didn't need to go anywhere now; my mind was made up.

Yes, I was going to like being able to use this magic. Even with the duties that came with the job, it was going to improve my life. Yes, things where going to be interesting from now on.

Crawling back into my bed, I fell directly into a sound sleep, not even thinking about the wall. It was doing quite well at staying up without my help.

* * *

"What did you think you where doing?" Kat yelled in a hushed voice, slapping me lightly on the side of my head with the ball of her hand.

"Trying to stay warm," I returned.

She rolled her eyes. "You are most definitely not ready to just go around doing spells! You still don't understand what kind of power you're using!"

I nodded, "Perhaps not, but it worked, and it was damn simple to do as well."

She crossed her arms over her chest. "Simple or not, you don't know how to meter your power. You could lose control any time you touch the slightest amount of magic. It would be like sending up a flare."

"To whom?" I snapped back.

Her face went slightly slack. "Damn it, Lithanial. The who of this is irrelevant, it covers far too many things. From demons wanting to use us to gain a foothold in this world, to the people who know and fear us and would see us destroyed."

I sighed. "Right, I do understand. Sorry... I'll be more careful from now on."

Kat shook her head, returning some of her attention to the lunch before her. The rest of the school's population bustled about around us, ignoring our hushed conversation with great disinterest.

"Listen, just don't just use your magic," Kat caution through a mouthful of what the cafeteria crew called a sandwich. "No matter how easy it may seem, it's not." She gulped down the last bit of food. "Believe me, I learned this the hard way. If you're not careful you may find yourself transformed for more than just a weekend."

I sighed, rubbing the back of my neck. "What happened to you?"

Her face fell about a mile. She gulped softly, her eyes almost glowing with thought as she decided if she should tell me or not. Finally she came to a decision.

"I tried to light a candle," she said sadly, "and ended up lighting the house. It was a magic fire; it couldn't be put out..." she trailed off, staring down at her food.

I remembered that, it was ten years ago. Totaled the house and most everything in it.

Shaking my head, I didn't say anything. I wasn't even sure there was anything to say. Or, more likely, that there was anything I could say to her that wouldn't sound patronizing.

It effectively ended the conversation, that last sad note hanging over the table as both of us picked our way through the school provided lunch, trying to find the actual bits of food. I couldn't bear to look her in the eyes, it just seemed wrong somehow.

Maybe this will sound silly, but that fact that it hurt her so much hurt me a bit too. It hurt even more to know that she would not have even had to mention it if it wasn't for me.

After the lunch bell rang, we separated, heading to the rest of our classes. Two hours later, during sixth period (our only class together), she still looked dejected, hardly even paying attention to what was going on around her. The teacher even commented on it, asking her if she was feeling all right.

Kat just shrugged and waved it off, as if nothing important was going on.

As soon as the last bell rang I was out of my seat like a rocket and over to her's, grabbing her shoulder as she started to walk out of the room. She looked back at me with long face.

"I didn't mean to injure you like that," I said.

She shook her head. "Don't, you didn't know, you couldn't have."

"And should not have had to." I responded, the retort aimed at myself as well as her. "You're right, I don't know what I can do, or where I need to guard against myself acting on pure impulse again."

She shrugged her hand off my shoulder and walked out of the class room. "Come on, then," she said, somehow seeming a bit cheerier, even though she didn't actually look like it. I followed her as we went to her locker, then to mine.

What cheerfulness she gained was lost as she stepped out of the school. Three steps past the door she collided hard with Scott Vanderbilt, another of the football jocks that prowled the hallways of the school, and a member of the Dork Death Squad, as Kat had coined the group that he was part of.

This time, however, he was alone and running back into the school as he barreled around the corner by the door and right into Kat sending her sprawling onto the cement.

He snarled, "Keep out of my way, slut," as he picked himself up and started towards the door. He stopped in front of me as I looked down at my friend, then finally up to him.

"What the hell are you looking at you queer little bastard?" he growled at me as he pushed past and reached for the door.

Scott was never a pleasant person; he had a good mind, but somewhere along the line he had decided to not bother with using it. He was a flunky really, part of the defensive line on the football team. His major flaw was that he never really thought much of women except as something nice to keep his bed and his body, warm.

But that was not on my mind then. It was no where close to anything I was thinking. All I was thinking was how much I despised him and how much I hated how he treated those around him.

In that instant my mind became like crystal. I could see him with perfectly clarity. That instant, fully aware of what I was doing, I let down my walls and attacked him.

It was a blast of magic, without form or function, but all potential. It overtook him, forcing him to his knees as if he had been punched in the gut. His breathing was suddenly ragged as he started to cough.

Kat looked up at me with panic in her eyes. "I thought you could control that."

Unable to responded, I just shook my head. I didn't dare let her know that this wasn't an accident. I just watched Scott as he buckled over on the cement before us. The three of us where alone in this corner of the school, out off view of the street.

Kat made a motion with her hands, a slight glow falling over the three of us. "No one can see us now," she explained, her eyes also locking on the man in pain before us.

His body was starting to flow like liquid, his skin ripping as bones, muscle and fat were rearranged underneath it. After a few seconds it became clear what the magic was remaking him as, as a pair of breast starting growing under his shirt.

Scott finally collapsed with a moan of pain, the changes in his, or rather, her (as far as could be seen through the clothing) form finished.

Kat was instantly kneeling at his side. "Are you ok?"

He looked up at her, panic glowing behind his eyes. "What the fuck happened?"

The panic flared into a fire as he heard the sound of his own voice. He clapped his hands over his mouth and looked down at his body. With a startled yelp he scrambled to his feet and pressed his body up against the wall, looking down at where he had lain, as if he could simply run away from what had happened.

He looked back down at himself and let out a second yelp, then took off running, pushing past us, his weight forcing me to fall down on top of Kat, who was just starting to stand.

We both struggled to get up, tripping over each other. When we finally made it to our feet, only a handful of seconds later, he was gone.

Kat swore loudly.

I looked down, rubbing my foot on the crack in the cement. "I'm sorry," I whispered.

She shot her gaze at me. "Don't be. You have more power than you can control, you need to learn more of that. I'm going to call Viola and tell her about this. I expect you may have a crash course with her in the next few days." She paused in thought for a few seconds.

"Until I can sort this out with her I want you go home and stay in your room." She pointed her finger at me, "I don't want any more accidents like this one."

I nodded slowly, still starting holes into the ground. I had to fix this, and soon, before things got any more out of hand.


Part 6

What have I done? Sweet Jesus what have I done?
Become a thief in the night! Become a dog on the run!
Have I fallen so far and is the hour so late,
that nothing remains but the cry of my hate?

Reaching over I turned off my stereo; not even a good dose of "Les MisÚrables" was helping raise my spirits any. It brought up too many questions that I felt I had no answers for.

How could I atone for my actions? I had just attacked Scott. True the man was a jerk who cared nothing about anyone else other than himself. True he would hurt anyone in his way, but did that give me the right to attack him as I did?

If I had fought him with my hands, or with my head, it would have at least seemed to be fair, but with magic? It felt like I was cheating. He had no defense against any such attack, and I had no right to just let it free as I did. I didn't know how it would act, how it would affect him.

What's more, I knew what Kat's reaction would be to finding out that it wasn't an accident. That I had done it to protect her in some fashion. She would not be at all happy about it.

That is the crux of the matter right there. I felt like I had betrayed her on some deep level. She had trusted me, not just with the knowledge of her magic, but with something deeper. I would lose that trust when she found out about my actions.

To be true to myself, I felt there was only one thing I could do. I could not tell her what I had done. I would have to keep it from her for as long as I could. But for now there was still the problem of the feminized Scott to deal with.

I was sure he wasn't taking it too well... although I couldn't imagine anyone taking such a change very well. Let alone a person who was so crass to the fairer sex as he was.

Which left me in a bad place. I didn't wish to leave him transformed. But I had done this, and I knew how the magic felt as it changed him. I was relatively sure that I could change him back.

So I had to fix this, and fast before it got past where I could do anything to change it. Which left me with a puzzle--where did Scott live? I had never bothered to learn and the school didn't give out that information like they used to.

Well more than likely he was in the phone book. If he or his family had an unlisted phone number I would be out of luck.

Slipping out of my bedroom I started down the hallway toward the living room, and the phone. I didn't get more than three steps when my sister showed up and smiled at me.

"Hey, squirt, where you slinking off to?" she asked, looking at me closely. A bang of her long red hair hung over her eyes.

I blushed. "Just going to make a call," I answered, suddenly feeling very sheepish.

She smiled. "You and Kat make a cute couple."

I let out a gasp of air, blushing even more. "We are not a couple!" I protested.

She smirked, "Sure you are, where else were you this weekend?" Just don't tie the phone up too long. I need to get on the computer tonight."

Nodding, I moved past her and into the living room. I admit, I love her but sometimes she is so annoying! Spending almost every night on-line vegging out on some chat room or another. I never did understand what she saw in it, there is just something about a good old handshake that no computer or phone could ever compare with.

Flopping down onto the couch I pulled the phone book from the phone table onto my lap. Flipping through the pages I got to the 'V's, then slowed down a bit, searching for 'Vanderbilt'.

I was in luck, there was only three 'Vanderbilt's in the phone book and two of them were far enough afield that any kids there would never go to my high-school.

So, taking a breath, I dialed the only number left. It rang three times before someone answered.

"Hello?" said the lady on the other end. Scott's mother I hoped.

"Yes, is Scott there?" I asked.

"Yes, but he's not feeling very well," she answered me, sounding concerned.

I pressed on, "What's wrong with him?"

"I don't know," she replied, "He's been up in his room since he got back home. Whenever I try to talk to him he says he has a sore throat."

I nodded. "Well, I'm going to come on over. He and I planned to do some studying together."

"Really?" She sounded skeptical.

"Some tutoring at least."

"Oh, that's good, then. He needs it. But I don't think he'll want to see anyone."

"I understand," I told her, "But could you please tell him that Lithanial was planning on coming over, to fix the problems he had after school."

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "I'll go tell him," she said, sounding somewhat reluctant to bother her son.

After about two minutes her voice came back over the phone. "He said that you should come straight over. Why would he see you, but not me?"

"I would guess because I'm a friend and you're his mother. You know how it goes." I hope she bought that... I wasn't sure 'how it goes' myself!

She sighed. "I suppose you're right."

"I'll be over as fast as I can," I looked at the address, their house was only a few blocks from the library. "It should only be a half an hour at the most, and thank you."

"You're welcome," she answered.

We then traded our goodbyes and got off the phone.

"Trini, I'm off the phone!" I called to my sister. She stuck her head out of her room and waved to me. "Thanks," she called back.

Leaning into the kitchen I found my parents. "I'm going to head over to the library," I lied.

My mother looked cornered. "It's already dark. Are you sure you want to go this time of night?"

I smiled. "I'll be fine Mom. Don't worry."

"I can give you a ride if you want." my father asked from where he was standing at the stove, heating some leftovers for dinner.

I shook my head. "I'd rather walk, I need the exercise. I'll be back before ten."

They both looked at each other for a few seconds then Mom spoke up. "All right, go ahead, we'll see you at ten."

I nodded and went back into my room to put on my jacket and grab my backpack. Ten o'clock gave me plenty of leeway, it was only six and the library didn't close till nine.

Four hours should be enough time to fix this, I hoped.

The trip to Scott's house was uneventful. It only took about twenty minutes at a quick stride before I was at his front door.

Taking a deep breath I rang the doorbell and stepped back. A few seconds later the door was opened by a middle aged lady who looked rather pretty. Her face was made up and her hair was done as well.

"Ms. Vanderbilt, I presume?" I said with a smile.

She nodded, stepping back from the door. "You must be Lithanial, please come in."

I walked through the door into the living room. It was nicely decorated. There was a fireplace along one wall around which the whole room seemed to be built. A family picture hung above the mantle. It featured Scott, his mother, his father and what looked to be a younger sister as well.

Scott's mother sat down on the couch. A fur lined coat that looked to be somewhat expensive was laying next to her was .

"Scott's room is at the top of the stairs, the first door on your left."

I nodded, starting up the steps.

At the top of the stairs I passed Scott's father who was on his way down. He was dressed in a suit and was adjusting his cufflinks as he brushed past me.

I smiled to myself as he apologized when he realized that I had been on the steps. I just nodded back with a smile. From the look of these two they had something important to get to tonight, so I could understand some hurry on their part.

Reaching Scott's bedroom I knocked on his door. There came a muffled grunt from inside. Opening the door a bit I looked inside.

"Scott?" I asked.

There came a second grunt, from a bed that was in one corner of the room. Scott looked to be huddled underneath the covers hiding from anyone who would enter his room.

Stepping inside the room I closed the door behind me. "Scott, it's Lithanial. It's safe, I'm alone."

The bed covers shifted as Scott sat up. He was still dressed in the same things he had on at school and looked the worse for wear. His once short hair was now long and a mess, hanging partly over his face.

More accurately--her face. With the evidence at hand I found it hard to think of Scott as a man.

"How?" she asked, a look of fear on her face. I don't think I had ever seen such a look on Scott's face before, no matter what sex.

"Magic," I whispered. I had to force myself to answer her at all, the words just didn't want to come.

"Why?" was her second question.

I bit my lip, looking down at the carpet. "Anger," I answered her, "I saw what you did to Kat, I heard what you said. I saw it all in the context of what you've done before, how you have always acted. So I attacked you."

Some of the fear started to be replaced by anger. "Why this?" she asked, waving over her body.

I shook my head. "The magic was without form; I just threw it at you. The form it took came from it's opinion of you, not from me."

"You hate me so much you would do this?" She more demanded than asked.

"No, I do not hate you. I don't even pity you." I sighed, "I have no feelings for you, except remorse for what I did. This is still new to me. I don't even understand what I can do with it." I sat down on the chair from her desk.

She nodded slowly. "So this was chosen by the magic itself?"

"Yes."

She stood up, walking over to me. "You choose to change me back then? To undo what you did. Don't you know that I will hurt you for this? Don't you understand that this attack can not go unpunished?"

I nodded.

"And yet you do this? After all I've done to you and your friend, you would do this, knowing what will come after?"

I nodded again

She looked thoughtful, looking down towards me. She had lost none of her height during her change. She let out a short laugh. "You could keep me like this, punish me for my crimes. Blackmail me with either money or this body. You could have me in your control for as long as you wish and yet you come and do this. You are a fool, Lith."

I smirked, "A fool is one who jumps out of an airplane without a parachute, believing that he will land safely."

She nodded. "Then do what you will."

Letting down my walls I reached for the magic, pulling just a thread to me. I could see it hanging around Scott's body, clinging as if it needed him to live.

The reversal of what I did would be simple. I reached out with the thread of magic, touching it to what encased Scott. Both echoed in my ears, ringing softly as they connected. Slowly I pulled the magic around him back through the thread and pushed it behind my walls.

As I did Scott started to change. His features melted around him, flowing slowly under his skin, reshaping him into who he once was, into who he should be.

After what seemed like seconds it was done, it had only taken a minute to clean him of what I had done. He was once again himself.

As the changes completed he smiled at me. "Leave now," he said stretching his arms. "If you wait to long I will hurt you."

I nodded, stand and walking to his bedroom door. Placing my hand on the knob I stopped. Turning back I looked to him and smiled. "Attack me as you wish, but first think about why I did this, both sides of it."

Then opening the door I stepped out of his room. I quickly went down the stairs and out the front door. His parents were already gone so no one saw me leave.

Checking my watch I found it was just a few minutes before seven. I had three hours before I had to be home, I didn't want to go back just yet. So to the library I went. It was only two blocks away from where I was.

As I walked there I thought about what I had done. I never even considered trying to blackmail Scott about this, it wasn't important to me. He was just an annoyance. I didn't need to have him at my beck and call.

Reaching the front lawn of the library I stopped, resting against one of the large trees the covered it's front lawn. I was starting to question so much about myself now. The world had started to become a far more interesting place.

A shadow at my feet caught my eye. What looked to be a small cat ran in front of my shoes and huddled by the side of the tree. Bending down to get a closer look I felt a swish of air over my neck and heard a deep thud on the tree.

Looking up I saw I had just missed being pierced by a sword! It had gone right over my head and embedded itself into the tree trunk.

What surprised me even more was the person wielding it. Susan Hayworth, and she looked mad!


Part 7

I was suddenly fearing for my life; a feeling that I had never had before, as well as one that I did not like. It felt like a tight fist in my gut that made me shake all over. Scared did not even start to describe how I felt.

Susan stood above me, her hands locked in a death grip around the hilt of her sword. She stared at me, her eyes almost glowing in the darkness. This was not like her, she and I were casual friends. She had never had reason to attack me before.

The use of a sword made the point that she was attacking me right now. Her choice of weapons was poetic, too. During last year's Halloween party she had come dressed as Xena: Warrior Princess, during the party she once ran out onto the floor and waved her sword around, daring anyone in the room to challenge her. From that point on her nick-name around the school was 'The Bitch With the Sword'. She liked it.

Which didn't go to any great lengths to show why she was trying to kill me! Right then and there I wasn't too interested in that answer myself. I'd rather stay alive and demand an explanation later.

Rolling forward I slipped under her sword as she tried to work it from the tree. Then I scrambled back up to my feet and ran for the only cover in the area, the library. With a glance back over my shoulder I saw Susan free her sword and come running after me.

Climbing up the front steps I swore to myself. This time of night the building would still have people in it, a few librarians and maybe a half dozen people looking for books.

With not much time to think, let alone plan, I reached behind my walls and grabbed a double handful of magic. I threw it towards the library, and I willed it to hide Susan and I from anyone inside.

As the spell started to take shape I barreled through the double doors and inside the building. Each of the heavy wood doors flew open around me, slamming against the walls on either side.

The librarian who was sitting at the front desk didn't even look up. Stopping in my tracks I took a good look at her--she had been turned into stone!

The solution the magic had come up with would work exactly as I wanted, no one in the library would see anything that happened. I just hoped I could undo it when this was all over with.

Behind me the doors to the library were slammed open for a second time. Snapping my head around I was greeted with a war cry from Susan. She was yelling as she ran through the doors, her sword up and ready to attack.

Taking off into the main room I skidded around a bookshelf. I was at a disadvantage in a foot race with Susan. She was in far better shape than I was and could easily beat me without breaking a sweat.

That left me the option of trying too out-think her. An idea didn't seem very helpful at this time. I was too busy keeping away from her to think about anything but that.

Still though, I did what I could. Getting myself out of her sight I started climbing one of the massive wooden bookcases that sliced across the library's floor. Each one was over ten feet tall and strong enough to hold an elephant.

Pulling myself up over the top shelf I once again heard Susan's war cry. I made the mistake of looking back over my shoulder at her. She was right behind me, her sword flying in a wide arch at my one dangling leg.

Yanking it back out of the way the blade just barely missed my leg, slicing the fabric of my pants. It slammed into the bookshelf under me sending a dozen books falling towards her head.

As she pulled her arms back to protect her face I saw my chance to get away from her, if only for a few seconds. Scrambling to my feet I ran down the length of the bookshelf to where it butted up against the wall.

Just a few feet above the bookshelf on the wall was the railing around the library's second floor. Jumping as I ran I just barely got a grip around the top of the wooden rail. Kicking my feet until I found something to brace against I pulled myself up and over, landing with a thud on the floor.

Below me Susan yelled, waving her sword in my direction. Then she turned and started to run for the stairs that led up to me.

Looking around the floor I tried to find someplace to hide. All that was up here was more bookshelves. The only hiding place was a desk right by the stairs.

As I searched my eyes latched onto something that could help. The whole back wall of the library consisted of a series of displays and right now, locked behind the glass partition, was a series of swords from different periods in history.

Susan had just gotten to the top of the stairs and had spotted me again. It left me little time to think or to plan. Running as fast as I could I slammed my weight against the door into the display.

The lock splintered under my weight and I felt inside. Rising to my feet I looked over the swords in the narrow room. I didn't have much time to be choosy, Susan would be in striking distance in only a few seconds. So I grabbed the closest sword, yanking it off its hangings on the wall.

And nearly dropped it on my foot! The damn thing felt like it weighed a ton, even if it was more like twenty pounds. I didn't have the arm strength to lift it for more then a few seconds let alone bring it to my defense.

I had no choice now, I had to improvise. I let the magic loose onto the blade, only telling it to make it usable for me. The magic complied, flowing over the sword like water, reshaping it.

The blade grew in length and become thinner as well. The metal it was made of started to shine almost as if it was glowing. The hilt changed, flowing to wrapping around my hand like a cage. The weight lessened as the changes finished. It felt almost as light as a feather.

I was forced to immediately bring it to my defense as Susan burst through the door I had just broken down. Her sword swung down towards my head and I barely got my own weapon up to defended myself. The edge of her sword came within an inch of my forehead.

Pushing back with both my sword, and my other hand on her hip, I sent her sprawling back onto the floor. This seemed to shock her for a second as she looked up at me, fear in her eyes.

The fear was gone in a flash and was replaced with a burning anger that seemed to glow behind her eyes. As she started to scramble back up to her feet I pushed past her and was back out into the library.

She yelled again and started to chase after me. Each of her screams were getting deeper, more like growls than yells. I thought maybe her voice was giving out but wasn't in the position to speculate.

Swinging around a corner I started down the stairs, taking them three at a time. Over the last set of steps I placed my foot down over empty air. Holding my arms out for protection I crashed into the floor of the library.

Staggering back to my feet I had to bring my sword back to bear against Susan, her blade slicing through the air towards my neck. As the two blades came into contact hers slid down the length of mine sending a shower of sparks onto the floor.

Bringing her sword back around she swung at me again, forcing me back a step as I defended myself. She skidded her blade down the length of mine, slamming the flat edge against the cage around my hand.

Taking another step back I swung at her this time, trying to smack her uncovered hand with the flat of my blade, hoping to disarm her. At this point I couldn't think of another way to end this that didn't involve spilling blood.

She countered my attack by yanking her sword back so the edge of my blade smacked into the crossbars at the end of her hilt. The impact shook my arms but I keep up my attack, swinging my sword back around without aiming.

Once again Susan's sword met mine, both blades slicing through the air before slamming together, edge on. Her blade nicked, a small break in the sword showing.

Yanking back on her sword she caught the edge of my blade in the nick, and with a hard yank ripped it out of my hands and threw it away, towards the front desk of the library.

As she saw the look of sudden terror on my face she started to laugh. A deep roaring laugh that sounded almost inhuman.

Never being one to begrudge a good opening I balled my hand into a fist and punched her in the side of her face. She reeled back, falling onto the steps with a loud yelp of pain.

Turning on my heels I started to run again. I was going for my sword, which at this time looked to be my best hope of stopping her. Or at least staying alive.

Stooping down as I ran I grabbed the sword, then ducked behind the front desk. Crouching low under it I tried to think of what I could do to disarm her. If I could catch her sword in some way I could yank it from her hands just as she did mine. But how?

Inspiration struck as I was peeking over the edge of the desk. Tucked into a corner, next to the computer terminal, was a letter opener.

Grabbing it I slipped back behind the desk. I had also seen that Susan didn't quite know where I was at, but I suspected I would lose that advantage in a few seconds.

Praying that my idea would work I pulled to me some more magic, letting it flow over the letter opener. It started to change just as the sword had done before. The slim piece of metal that had made of the cutting edge grew longer as it turned into a real blade. It became almost a foot long and made of the same metal as the sword.

The handle changed even more than the blade. It grew under my fingers swelling and twisting as the plastic became metal. A hilt grew as well, made as a pair of twisting vines that rose up the handle and split into a cross piece above my hand. The tips of the cross piece were pointed up and slightly in.

It was a dagger that was made to catch a sword.

Standing up behind the desk I saw Susan. She was looking away from me, peeking down one of the shells of books. Stepping out from behind the desk I started to run at her, screaming as I did.

She turned around and gasped as I was coming down on her, sword in one hand, dagger in the other. She brought her blade up to block mine. I brought both of my weapons together in a V shape and as we contacted, slide the dagger down the length of her sword.

Reaching the cross piece of her hilt I twisted the dagger, catching both her sword and it's cross piece in the dagger tines. With one solid yank I pulled the sword out of her grasp and threw it back behind me.

She stared at me, then down to her empty hands. Then as if in slow motion she fell to her knees, her hands spread out wide as she let her head fall. She was offering her life to me to take.

I didn't have time to even think of what to do, because as I began to understand what she was doing there came a tight twang from behind me and something swished past my side.

Susan threw her head back, her mouth open in a silent scream. Buried deep in her shoulder was a the end of a feather shaft, a small arrow. She turned her eyes to me in confusion before they rolled back in her head and she fell over onto her side.

I twisted on my feet, turning to face her attacker. It came to me as a surprise. It was a small man, no more than five-five. He was dressed in a pair of jeans and a black turtleneck. In one hand he was holding a small crossbow, the other was holding onto an yellow backpack.

He gave me a lopsided smile. "You can put your blades away, I'm not here to do you harm."

I shook my head. "What did you do to her!" I demanded. This man must have done something to her, why else would she have attacked me?

"Saved her," he said, putting the crossbow away inside of his backpack. "She had been taken over by a demon."

"You save people by shooting them?" I asked.

He nodded, walking towards me. "Yes, it's the fastest way to get it into their system. And the wound heals in seconds. Take a look." He pointed past me as he stopped a few feet away.

I quickly flicked my head around to look at Susan. He was right, the small arrow was now laying on the floor. Her shoulder was covered in blood, but didn't show any sign of a wound.

"You must have really pissed someone off," he observed, walking past me. I turned to keep my eyes on him. "The cost of a possession like this is steep. Someone wanted you dead in a bad way."

"Oh..." was about all I could muster for a comment.

He nodded, bending down to pick up his arrow. "Did you stone the people in here?" he asked.

"Yes, I didn't want to scare people." I answered, it was a weak excuse.

The man smiled to me as he stood back up stuffing the arrow into his pack as well. "Well, I hope you can reverse it. If not, you'll be up for murder."

I sighed. "I think I can, at least I hope I can."

"I wish you luck kid." he said, adjusting his pack on his shoulders. He then let out a low sigh. "Hey, where did you get the elven blades?"

I shook my head. "What?" I didn't really understand.

"The sword and dagger," he said with a laugh. "They're elven made. I didn't think you could find them on this side of the hill."

I kept shaking my head. "I needed the weapons, the magic reshaped them like this."

He smiled at me again. "Kid you've got one hell of a talent. I've worked with a Duchess before and even she couldn't just make a sword like that."

I shrugged and started to pull the magic back from the sword only to find that it was already gone, the dagger was the same way. Whatever I had done to make them I wasn't going to be able to undo.

I swore softly to myself, I didn't want to leave the library missing a sword. There would be hell to pay for everyone if I did. Turning to the man I was planing to ask for help, but he was already gone.

Slipping out of my jacket I wrapped the sword and the dagger in the cloth. Then with a jolt of inspiration I walked over to Susan's sword and picked it up. Then going back up stairs I put it back in the display to replace the one I had taken. Then carefully I closed the door and rolled one of the book carts up against it.

With luck someone would run into the cart and knock the door back open, hiding the fact that I had broken it myself.

Heading back down the steps I saw that Susan was still sprawled out in the main part of the room. Lifting her up I dragged her over to one of the tables and set her in a chair, letting her head rest on the table then cleaned most of the blood from her shoulder. With any luck she'd think she had fallen asleep.

Then tucking the bundle of swords under my arm I stepped out of the library, leaning back to keep the door open so I was able to see inside.

I could still feel the magic surrounding the building, holding to the task I had given it just twenty minutes before.

Reaching towards it I pulled the magic away. The was an almost audible pop and I watched the librarian at the front desk return to normal and start to move again.

With a smile I went down the front steps and started towards Kat's house. She had to know about this!


Part 8

I have to say that I felt calmer than I had any right to be. After all that had just happened I thought I should be running to Kat's house, not walking along the sidewalk acting like I didn't have a care in the world.

Exhaustion was starting to creep deeper into my body with every passing minute. Each step seemed to take more energy as I worked my way to Kat's house. My skin was starting to feel prickly as well, like it was just starting to fall asleep.

By the time I reached her front door I was barely standing. I did my best to hide it, though, as I pressed the doorbell.

Kat's mom opened the door a few seconds later, looking a bit surprised to see me. "Lithanial, what brings you by?"

I smiled. "I left some books here by accident, I was in the area and was hoping to pick them up."

She frowned, looking down at my jacket, still wrapping the pair of blades and tucked under my arm. "It's cold out tonight. Why aren't you wearing your jacket?"

I blushed. "I was running a bit and I got too warm. I'm starting to feel cooler now." The truth was I hadn't even noticed how cold it was until she mentioned it.

She sighed softly. "Kat's up in her room."

I nodded to her as I stepped inside. She moved past me to close the door as I started up the stairs. As I reached the door to Kat's room, I gave a quick knock, but no answer came.

Biting my lip, I opened the door and stuck my head in. I was sure Kat had to have been sleeping, but there was no sign of her.

I stepped inside the room and collapsed on the bed, waiting for her to come back from wherever she had gone off to. After ten minutes had passed, I started to get worried. She keep good tabs with her mom. If she said Kat was in her room more than likely she was.

Sliding off her bed, I rose to my feet, wobbling a bit. My first plan of action was to go check the bathroom, I couldn't think of any other place she could be.

I was just reaching for the door handle when I remembered she was going to go call Viola. It was possible that they could have decided to meet at the Glade-o-the-Wood.

Which meant I had to get there as soon as I could. The problem was that Kat never had the time to teach me the spell to open a door there.

So I took a chance. This night had shown me some amazing luck with my magic doing what I needed it to do, even if not the way I would have preferred it be done. I was hoping that my luck hadn't finally run out. Staring at the door out of the room I let some magic flow over the wall in my mind. Pushing it onto the door, I tried to tell it that I wanted the door to lead to the Glade.

The door started to glow, flaring brightly for a few seconds before it faded. All that remained was a soft glow emanating from the gap between the door and its frame.

Reaching for the handle I noticed that my hand was shaking. Not violently, more like I was shivering. Finally, I grabbed the handle and threw the door open.

On the other side was the Glade! Sitting right in the middle of it was Kat and Viola, along with a five other people I hadn't meet before. I blinked a few times, trying to clear my eyes. I could start to see blackness creeping around the edges of my vision.

They all turned to look at me as the door opened. The five I didn't know each had a worried look on their face. Viola looked annoyed and Kat was in shock. Finally Kat stood up and started towards me.

"Lith," she said once she was only a few feet away, "What are you doing here?"

I just smiled as everything faded to black.

* * *

I woke up with a start, consciousness returning to me just as suddenly as it had left. Opening my eyes, I found myself looking up at a blue sky, with one large puffy white cloud hanging just right above my face.

"Lith?" I heard Kat ask from a few feet away. I rolled my head around to look at her, moaning as the muscles of my neck protested with as much pain as they could muster.

She was sitting cross-legged on the grass, a concerned look on her face. Viola was standing just behind her, her face neutral. The other five were farther back, keeping a respectable distance from us.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

"Like I've been trampled to death by a heard of wild, diarrhetic elephants," I whimpered, trying to sit up.

Her hands were on me in a second, holding me down. "Don't move, it will just hurt you more." She winced softly as she pulled her hands away from me. "What in the worlds have you been doing? It hurts just to touch you."

"He's over-extended himself," Viola said quietly, her eyes finally looking at me. "He's used so much magic so fast that it's burnt into his nerves. It will fade in a few days."

Kat glared at me. "I thought I told you to stay in your room until I had this settled!"

"I'm sorry," I responded, at least talking didn't hurt. "But I had to help Scott, I just couldn't leave him like that."

"Were you able to undo the spell?"

I nodded, groaning softly as I did.

Viola frowned deeply. "I don't suppose you had the forethought to wipe his memory of all that happened?"

I shook my head as much as my protesting body would let me.

"Lithanial," Kat whispered, "do you have any idea what you have just done?"

My response was a strained laugh. "I'm not finished yet."

Her face started to pale. "What else did you do?"

I started to explain it to her, in detail, about Susan's attack and how I had defended myself. About stoning then de-stoning all the people in the library. About the man who had shot Susan to removed the demon from her, and about the sword and the dagger.

Viola took a great interest in how I described creating the elven weapons, removing them from my jacket and looking them over in the sunlight. The five others just stayed away, watching. I suddenly felt like this was an important moment for me and my life. No, scratch that, it felt more like I was on trial.

As soon as the light hit the blade the five started to react. An older man, maybe about fifty, moved forward and took the dagger from my jacket. "This is Elven!" he said, his voice betraying the astonishment that didn't show on this face.

The five suddenly broke into talk among themselves. The sword was taken away from Viola and both weapons where passed around between the small group.

"How could you make an Elven blade?" Viola asked me, moving next to Kat.

"The sword was too heavy, I let the magic reform it into something better for me. The dagger was the same way, but I had more of a goal in mind."

She frowned. "Magic just cannot create a weapon, even from a weapon. It has to be guided, that's why weapon creating is such a valued skill. To just have the magic create it implies that you had the image already, but did not know it."

Kat looked at her mentor. "What are you suggesting?"

She ignored the question. "How old are you Lithanial?" she asked.

"Seventeen," I answered. "I'll be eighteen on Friday."

She shook her head. "Then I could not possibly be right."

"Viola," Kat said, "what are you thinking?"

She turned to look at her student. "I thought he might be a Changeling, but that could not be. He is too old for his powers to come to the surface. If he was a year younger there would be no other choice. I do not understand it, how could he know of Elven blades."

"The easiest way to settle that," said the older man that appeared to be the leader of the group of five, "is to call on one of the Elf Lords. I will see if he knows of how something like this might occur."

Viola and Kat both nodded in time.

He turned to look at me, his eyes almost afire. "As for you, you have created a disastrous series of events. If your friend has a mind he will not talk about what happened, but if he does we will have to take drastic measure against him and whomever he tells. You," he pointed to Kat, "will be stripped of all your powers and any memory of magic will be wiped from your mind." He turned back to look at me. "You will be exiled for the rest of your life!"

He snapped around on his heel and walked back to the others. Together they moved to the doorway that was standing just in the field of my vision. One by one, they opened the door and stepped through to a different place.

"Lithanial, do you have any idea who those people were?" Viola asked.

"Someone bloody well important, I would imagine," I answered.

She nodded very slowly. "They are the High Council, the most powerful human magic users on Earth. When they said you would be exiled, they didn't mean just from your home. They will transform you into an animal and give you to an Elf Lord to hunt for sport." She frowned as she spoke. "You would live for maybe five hundred years, being killed every day and healed again before they become bored with you and finally allow you die."

I shivered. "That would not be good."

"So you had better hope your friend does have a head on his shoulders," she snapped. "Because you have no control over this."

She turned to look at Kat. "I want you to take him home and put him to bed. He'll need a few days to sleep off what the magic did to him."

She nodded, looking worried.

Viola let one of her hands fall on my forehead, resting it there gently. I felt a wave of power flow through me for a second before she took it away. "There, you now have what looks like a case of the flu. It will cover for you and keep you out of school for the next few days."

"Thanks," I whispered.

She shook her head. "It's too late for thanks. It's too late for anything except to pray for the best. Kat," she turned to face her as she spoke, "Tomorrow you will talk to Scott, let him know that he can't tell anyone what happened."

Kat nodded.

"I also want you to find Susan and talk to her, see if she can remember anything that happened, even if as a dream."

Kat nodded again

Viola frowned, "I fear there is more happening here than we can see. Someone does want Lithanial dead. Not under his control, but dead. Someone who could afford a deal with a demon to ensure that it happened."

"Why would someone want him dead?" Kat asked. "He has attacked no one important, he is not even a threat to anyone."

"Someone finds him a greater threat then we can perceive," Viola answered. "I fear that whomever it is will not stop until he is dead. You must watch over him, protect his house and him as much as you can."

She nodded again. "What about you? What are you going to be doing?"

"I'm going to find out who shot Susan," Viola answered as she stood up, "and why he was in your town to begin with. Then I'll find him. He'll be able to tell us more about this demon, maybe enough to allow us to summon it and question it about what took place."

"That doesn't sound safe."

She smiled. "Which is why I will do it and pass on anything I find out. You just make sure he stays alive and gets better. We have not seen the end of this."

"I'll do my best," Kat answered.

Viola smiled. "That is all I ask. Now, take him back to your house, then back to his own. Make sure he's asleep when you leave him."

She nodded once more.

"I'll talk to you again when I have found out anything," Viola said, right before opening her door and walking back into her apartment in New York.

Kat bent down to look at me, letting out a deep sigh. "You're up to your neck in this now." she said.

"I know," I answered back.

"No," she said with a frown, "You don't."


Part 9

I felt somewhat better the next day. I could move, albeit slowly, without too much pain. Once my mother had seen me that morning she had ordered me right back too bed. There was no way I was going to be allowed out of the house until Friday.

At least it would give me time enough to prepare for my birthday. Not that I'd really been waiting for it or anything.

The day after it, that Saturday, was Halloween, so the school was having its usual dance. A few people had asked if I was going, others had made it clear that I wasn't to go.

I was considering ignoring them and going anyway. Inviting Kat and just have some fun and not worrying about the school bullies. Somehow, after what had happened, I wasn't that scared of them anymore.

As for myself; I had spent my free time catching up on some back reading and watching TV. Not much good on, as normal, but I didn't mind. Unless it's something like B5 I really don't pay much attention, anyway.

Kat made a quick stopover around lunch time to check up on me. She had managed to talk to Susan about last night. She just had some vague memories of watching a sword fighting movie, nothing about what really had happened.

No news about Scott yet, which worried me. He was smart, but was he smart enough to keep his mouth shut about spending a hand-full of hours as a member of the fairer sex? Then again, if he told anyone in his circle of friends about what had happened they would more than likely turn on him, thinking he was just as gay as they thought I was.

Ah, the politics of being in high school. Some times I think they use it to train politicians how to back-stab. Or maybe it was the other way around? Never mind, it's not that important.

Kat was also kind enough to drop of what felt like a fifty-pound book that was an encyclopedia about the Fay, and other magic things. It was all quite interesting.

One thing that she had bookmarked for me to read through was a section about Elves and Changelings. It explained why I was too old to be one, even though Viola thought I should be.

Elven children, when born, look about the same age as a one year old human child. So when an elf is switched with a human are switched, it's with a child who is that age. Usually one of the Elf parents has been watching closely since birth, so the switch will not be noticed.

This means that when an Elven child comes into their power at sixteen years old, they are really 'seventeen' as far as those who know them are concerned.

Being four days from eighteen years old, there was no way I could have been switched like that.

Which left the question of how come I was getting these powers so late in life, and why I was able to craft Elven weaponry, or even make weapons at all.

Questions in questions, wheels inside of wheels. With more coming all the time. Like who wanted to kill me, and why?

Not that I had come to terms with the fact that someone wanted me dead. Sure, I had joked about it in the past, mostly in regards to school, but I had never thought that it would be so serious.

Sometimes I wished I had enough sense to be frightened when I should be.

About four o'clock there came a knock at the front door. I had been expecting this; it was more than likely Kat come to check up on me. I limped to the door as best I could, being the only one home (my sister having taken off for music lessons).

I was correct that it was Kat. She was standing on the front porch, looking a bit nervous. She had her hair down today as well, her long hair dropping down her back as well as over her shoulders, almost cloak-like. The sight made me just want to reach out and touch it, but I restrained myself. With a smile I waved her in.

She coughed slightly, not moving an inch. "Lith, I have someone who wants to see you."

I frowned a bit; this didn't sound very good. "Who?" I asked.

She moved to the side and Scott stepped up onto the front porch. I lowered my head when I saw him.

"Hello," he said in a calm voice, then turned to Kat. "Are you sure you want me here?"

She nodded.

I shrugged, moving back from the door. "Both of you come in, then. No one else is going to be home for an hour or two, so we have time to talk."

They both came inside. Scott glanced at me as he brushed past. Kat gave me a long look, though. She had a sad look on her face that was in her eyes as well. Our eyes connected for a second, and she suddenly snapped her head away, her hair flying.

I sighed softly, chewing my lip as I closed the door. Following them into the living room I just stood as they both took a seat, one on each side of the room.

Kat started to speak, "I picked Scott up after school. He said he hasn't told anyone about what happened, but he did want to talk to you."

I nodded slowly. "I was kind of expecting that."

She sighed, looking away from me. "Scott told me what happened on the trip over. He told me what you told him."

I closed my eyes, letting my head drop to my chest.

"I think I should go," Scott said, it sounded like he was standing up as he spoke.

"No," Kat answered. "You can talk to him after I'm done."

The sounds of Scott settling back to his seat filled the room, then silence. A cold, filling silence that seemed to smother everything else in the room.

Kat spoke first, "What the hell where you thinking Lithanial?" She asked, her voice shacking softly.

I had no response.

"Not only did you use magic on him," she continued, "You didn't even shape it! Do you know what pure magic can do to a person? With no shape or control?"

I just shook my head.

She let out an exasperated sigh. "I need to talk to Viola; to say she will be mad would be an understatement. She's already angry with you as it is. This will make it worse. I know her, she'll want your powers stripped from you and your memory wiped. Failing that, she'll have you exiled from this world. Not as bad as the Elders threatened you with, but still..." she trailed off with another sigh.

I nodded slowly.

"As for myself, I'm past feeling anything about you. How could you even think of doing something like this? Let alone in some misguided attempt to protect me!"

"You're my best friend," I whispered softly.

"I'm not sure about that anymore," she answered.

I bit my lip again, but decided I should still speak. "I agree. Whatever punishment I take for these actions I will accept willingly. I deserve them."

There was some shuffling of fabric, then I felt a hand on my shoulder. "You always knew when you screwed up," Kat said, whispering into my ear. "Usually when it's too late to change anything. I know you meant well, but you hurt me."

"I sorry," I whispered back.

She touched my cheek with her other hand, "I know, but that doesn't matter anymore. You've broken my trust in you. It's going to take a lot for that to be rebuilt."

I sighed, pulling away from her touch.

She sighed in return, stepping away from me. I assumed she sat back down, but didn't open my eyes to find out.

"Lithanial," Scott said, "I've spent a lot of time thinking in the past day, about what you told me last night." His voice was quiet, almost soft, none of the coarseness he usual spoke with, or the anger.

I said nothing.

"I understand why you did it," he said. "And why you came back to fix it. You could have done so much to hurt me like that, in revenge for what I've done to you throughout the years. I would have done that to you. Yet you didn't for me."

I still didn't respond.

"Please look at me," he said, a kindness in his voice I had never heard before.

I looked up, opening my eyes. He was still sitting where I had seen him last. Kat was nowhere in sight, and I didn't try looking for her.

There was a look on his face, a look of concern, maybe a bit of shock.

"I'm not going to apologize for what I've done to you," he said, leaning forward slightly. "Anything I could say would be meaningless to you. Nor will I ever tell anyone what you did to me. But I will not attack you anymore."

It was my turn to be shocked. I think he understood the expression on my face because he laughed just a bit.

"I know I can't do what you and..." he paused, closing his hand into and out of a fist, seeming to be groping for a name.

"Katarina," I suggested.

He nodded, "Yes, I can't do what you or she can, but I know how people work. I've been a follower all my life, I may be for the rest of my life. Right now though, I want to help you two in any way I can."

"What?" I said, more shocked than before, quickly finding a chair to sit in.

"Just what I said," he explained. "I grew up believing in magic. It's one thing my real mother always believed in, all her life. Now, years too late, I'm presented with it on a silver platter. I may not be able to use it, but I want to understand it, and maybe, get your help when I need it."

I nodded slowly. "I can't say if this can be allowed or not," I said after thinking for a bit. "This is not my place, and maybe after today, I won't remember a thing. It has to be Kat's decision."

"Very well," he answered, leaning back in his seat a bit.

"I'll have to think about it," Kat said from over my shoulder. I looked back to find her standing a few feet behind me.

Scott nodded.

"Lith," she said, focusing on me. "Viola wants to see you now."

I nodded, standing up slowly, still hurting a lot. "Which door?"

She shook her head. "Any you want, you're going alone."

"Oh," I said, my voice sounding flat, echoing none of the surprise that I felt. Taking a deep breath I walked over to the hall closet. Kat came up next to me, speaking under her breath, then touching the door frame.

"Thanks," I whispered as I opened the door and stepped out into the Glade.

Viola was waiting for me on the tree stump. She looked up as I entered, frowning. Closing the door behind me I walked to her. The grass felt like a soft carpet under my bare feet. When the gap between us was only a yard she raised a hand, motioning me to stop. I did so, my eyes downcast.

She stood up, walking around me in a slow circle, tisking gently with each pace. Once she had finished the circumference she stepped forward until she was face to face with me.

Putting a finger under my chin, she pushed up until I was looking into her eyes. They locked with mine for a few seconds before she tisked again and stepped away.

In that brief second of contact, I saw so much in her eyes. They were calm, almost emotionless. For a second there though, I saw a flash of something else. I didn't know what it was.

I stood there, letting her judge me, no words being spoke, yet she seemed to be summing up my actions with no defense on my part. Was she searching me for something, or searching herself.

With a grand sweep of her arms she cast a spell large enough that it sent a twinge throughout my pained body. Behind her the trees of the Glade separated, revealing a path into a dark gray mist.

I looked at her once more, then back to the mist. The implication was clear. I was to be exiled. Thrown out from my world, into some unknown place in UnderHill. On the other side of that mist, was the unknown, but some how, it didn't scare me.

I took a single hesitant step forward, but stopped after that. Why this? Did what I do warrant such a punishment? No words, just an empty path into a mist that would take me somewhere else. What kind of judgment was this!

What I did to Scott was wrong in every sense, but this was uncalled for--what it would lead to, what it would cost. I wasn't going to lose everything in my life for what I did.

I turned to Viola, then shaking my head, I said, "No."

She frowned, reacting like she had been slapped in the face. "This is not a choice for you to make. You can't just decided not to do this."

"Then do something else," I demanded, "But this is not an answer, it's worse than just a simple punishment. My actions do not merit this."

"Why do you feel you can judge yourself?" she questioned, with a slight sneer.

"I'm not judging myself. If this was just about me I would do just that." I snapped back.

Putting her hands onto her hips, she stepped towards me. "This is just about you. No one else is to blame for your actions, no one else can be punished for them."

"Correct!" I said, throwing my hand up into the air to emphasize the statement. "But it's not just me you're punishing now, is it? You're telling me to walk away not just from my life, but from my family, from my friends. To just vanish from the face of the Earth. It doesn't work that way! Do you know how that would hurt my mom? To lose her other son? It would devastate her!"

"So?" she snapped.

"So," I asked, feeling stunned. "Kat thought you would try to have my powers taken away first. To erase my mind, make me forget these past few days. Do that then."

She looked at me closely, her eyes seeming to focus past me, something hidden from one so inexperienced in the ways of magic as I was. "Are you saying your family is more important than your magic?"

"I'm saying those that I love are more important than anything. I won't willingly hurt them. My magic, it's a fancy tool. I've lived my life without it . I don't need it. My family, my friends... if I didn't have them, I wouldn't have anything."

Reaching out, she placed a hand on my shoulder, and squeezed gently. "Magic has always been a tool, to use, to help, but never throw about. Every person who uses it must go though a trial, the magic insures this. To prove that they are truly deserving of it."

"What are you saying?" I asked, my voice seeming like a whisper.

"You always knew what choices you had. The fact that you would willingly accept the removal of your magic, that says much about you. The reasons by which you came to that decision say much about you as well, both spoken and not. As mages, we can't force magic away from you, but the magic itself can find you unworthy."

"So the magic truly is alive?" I asked in slight wonder.

She nodded. "The trail did lead you to UnderHill, where exactly I don't know. Once you entered the Glade, once you came here, the magic left you. It's back now, It shines forth in your eyes.

I nodded slowly. "So, what now?"

"You go home, you learn what you must. I think you truly understand what this power is now."

I nodded again, turning and walking through the grass to the door. Grasping the handle, I looked back at Viola. "Thank you."

She laughed softly. "Thank yourself, for that's who truly judged you."

I smiled to her, turning back around and opening the door. Stepping across the threshold, I found myself back in my living room, where both Kat and Scott waited for me.

Closing the door carefully behind me, I walked towards them.

"Do you still remember?" Kat asked, walking over to me.

"Yes," I answered.

Kat smiled, "I somehow knew that would be the case."

"Thanks," Maybe our friendship wasn't as dead as I had thought.


Part 10

"Happy Birthday," Kat said as she stepped into my bedroom. I looked up over the edge of the book I had been reading, and smiled at her.

"Thank you," I answered, marking my page as I closed the book and set it down on the edge of my bed. "Missed you after school today," I told her. "Where did you go?"

She laughed, "Always you with your questions. I had to take care of some things today, so I cut out of school a bit early. No one noticed."

"I bet," I told her with a smirk and a wink, crossing my legs as I sat up on the bed. "Sneaking out for my present, I hope?" I asked with a slight chuckle.

She leaned up against the still open door frame. "Perhaps. It depends on how well you've been following your studies."

I nodded. "I have been. I can show you if you're willing to risk it?" I suggested with a slight smile.

She gave me a critical look, stepping inside the room, and closing the door behind her. "I wish you would take this a little more seriously," she commented.

"I do, Kat, I really do." I told her as I stood up, picking the candle up from the top of my desk. "You know me well enough to know that I don't really show how serious I am about something."

She nodded, sitting herself down on my bed. "I know, Lith, but Viola doesn't. You need to be open with all your emotions, more so with me than anyone else."

"Why you?" I asked with a slight smile, handing her the candle. She looked at it closely, then held it in front of herself, level with her chest.

"Because I'm suppose to be teaching you how to use your magic," she answered, with a slight smile. She wasn't saying something to me, and I thought I had an idea as to what it was.

"Ready for me to demonstrate this?" I asked, taking in a deep breath, readying myself.

She nodded, holding the candle out towards me. "I'll be watching how you do," she warned.

I nodded in return, fixing the image of the candle in my mind as I closed my eyes. I carefully reached over the wall in my mind, picking up a small bit of the magic there. Bunching it in my mental hands, I formed it into the flame I wanted, then I reached out, placing it on the wick of the candle.

Kat let out a startled sound. My eyes shot open, worried that I had done something wrong, or missed my target, or something worse. Instead, Kat was still holding the candle, which was burning gently, with a slightly flickering flame. There was a look of shock on her face.

"What happened?" I asked, quickly moving to sit beside her on the bed.

She looked at me, then bending down, blew out the candle. Very carefully she gave me the candle, still looking shocked.

"Kat?" I prompted, starting to become worried.

"I didn't feel anything at all," she said, pausing to catch her breath, "nothing at all. One moment there was nothing, then the next the candle was suddenly burning."

I nodded slowly, setting the candle down on my night table and placed my other hand on her leg. "That's good, isn't it? No leaking at all. Completely contained, that was what I was suppose to do, wasn't it?" The last part sounded almost like begging.

"Viola can't do it this clean," she explained to me, shaking her head slightly, "I don't think anyone can. This is amazing, Lith! I would say impossible, except that you actually did it."

I smiled. "Don't worry then, we'll ask Viola about it next time we see her. I suspect that it will turn out to be something simple," I said, thinking up a few ad-hoc theories. "Maybe it's just out of range of what you can sense, or maybe I just did it a bit stranger than normal, and it will settle itself out."

She laughed softly, reaching up to push back some of her black hair from out of her eyes. "Or something else we can't think to make up right now, yes?"

"Perhaps," I answered, shaking my head slightly as I took my hand from her leg, and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. "As I said, we'll just have to ask Viola."

"Right," she answered quietly, a sudden sense of unease filling the room. Perhaps a sense of expectation as well. Like something was about to happen. It kind of felt like it was suppose to be one of those slow, closer and closer kisses you always see in movies, but neither one of us was moving to take such actions.

There came a knock at my bedroom door. It broke the moment, thankfully. I jumped to my feet, perhaps startling Kat a bit. "Yes?" I called out.

"It's just me, guys," Scott said from the far side of the door.

I let out a breath that didn't realize that I had been holding. "Come on in," I told him, moving back to sit on the bed, but not as close to Kat this time.

Scott entered, closing the door behind himself before taking the chair at my desk. "Did I interrupt something?" he asked with a smile.

"No," Kat said, crossing her arms over her chest.

"To bad," he answered with a smirk. "You guys are a cute couple."

Kat guffawed, and I just shook my head, and started to tell him that he was wrong.

"I know, I know," he said when he saw that we were starting to protest, "you're not a couple, but you really do act like it."

"I'll take your word for it," Kat told him, pulling herself farther up onto my bed, and crossing her legs under herself. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"Elf boy here is going to help me with my math homework," he answered, waving his hand at me.

Kat gave me a look out of the corner of her eye. I shrugged to her. "I gave him a peak at that bit on changelings. Even if I'm not one, that's what he wants to call me."

She laughed, "Red hair, violet eyes, you could pass as an elf, if you weren't too old, that is."

"Which reminds me," Scott piped up, "Happy birthday kid."

I smirked. "Thanks," I answered, adjusting myself slightly on the bed.

Kat suddenly jumped, digging into her pocket. She pulled out a pager, which bounced wildly in her hand. Shutting the silly thing off, she glanced at the message. "Mind if Viola joins the party?" she asked.

I glanced at Scott. "I'm not sure what she would think about having him here."

"She already knows that Scott is interested in helping us, so meeting him now would simply be before she asks to see him."

"Just as long as you stop talking about me in the third person," he added, crossing his arms and getting a stern looking on his face.

I started to say something quite flip, but Kat hushed me with a snap of her hand. "Sure," I commented. "Bring on Viola, might as well get everyone in here today."

She nodded, walking to the door. Waving her hand over it, she whispered a few words under her breath; in response the gap between the door and its frame started to glow. Grasping the handle, she opened it wide, stepping back with the door. The Glade was on the other side of the threshold.

"Wow," Scott whispered, this was the first big sign of magic he had seen since his transformation. It had already become routine for me. I was surprised by that realization of the loss of wonder. It was a very strange feeling.

Viola stepped through the doorway, closing it once she was in the room. Her mud-brown hair was put up in a bun, and her blue eyes instantly locked onto Scott.

"Hello, ma'am," he said, nodding to her.

She walked over to him. "You must be Scott. Katarina has told me about you. I approve of your interest in their magic, but I'll be keeping on eye on you. Don't overstep your bounds, and don't whisper a word of this to anyone outside of this room, understand?"

I found it quite amazing how the tone of her voice was able to go from being genial, to providing a warning, without actually changing at all. I suspected she must have kids.

"Yes, ma'am," he answered, not even flinching under her gaze. "I don't have any plans to be telling anyone about this, unless I know they already know. As for my bounds, I'm not quite sure what they are, but if I'm given proper warning, I'll keep my nose clean."

She smiled. "Just do what you're told, and everything will be fine. And please, don't call me ma'am, I'm not that old yet. Viola is my name, and how I prefer to be addressed."

He nodded, standing up. "Here, you can have my chair, I don't mind standing."

"Thank you," she answered, waving him off, "but that won't be necessary. I just need to talk to Lithanial for a few moments. The rest of you may stay if you wish."

Kat blinked. "How did you know I would be over here?" She asked, sounding astonished.

Viola gave Kat a long, knowing smile. "I know you well enough to know where you're most likely to be when I want to talk to you. That, and I don't know Lithanial's number or address. An oversight on my part."

"Don't worry about it," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "I don't think the school even knows where I live. Anyway, my sister's already on the computer, you wouldn't have been able to even get through."

She smiled at me. It was unexpected coming from her. I guess I wasn't so much of an annoyance to her anymore. At least I hoped I wasn't.

"Viola," Kat said, reaching over me for the candle, and passing it to her teacher, "I want you to see this."

She looked surprised, but took the candle from her. "You sound worried, is something wrong?"

"I'm not sure, I just want to know if you feel what I feel." Kat turned to me. "Light the candle again Lith."

I glanced at Viola for permission, and she gave me a short nod of her head. Relaxing, I performed the same steps as before, lighting the candle with my eyes close.

I heard Scott jump in his chair, but nothing from Viola. Opening my eyes, I saw that she was still holding the lit candle. She looked slightly pale, though, the color drained from her face.

"Did I do something wrong?" I asked, suddenly worried.

She blinked her eyes, raising the candle to her lips and blowing the flame out. "I didn't feel anything! Nothing at all!" she exclaimed, holding the same amazement in her voice that Kat had minutes before.

"That's good though, isn't it?" I asked, taking the candle from her as she held it out to me. "I mean, I'm not supposed to be leaking magic. If you didn't feel anything, that means I succeeded, right?"

She nodded, "You're correct. This, though, I was almost sure you could not be a Changeling, but now..." she shook her head, a few strands of hair falling into her eyes. "Only an Elf can use magic that cleanly."

"But he can't be a Changeling," Kat protested, "he's too old, he couldn't have been switched. Right?"

Viola shook her head, Scott was up by her side, helping her to sit down at my desk chair. She didn't protest this time. "I don't know. I'll have to check with some other friends, maybe there's something that isn't in the books. I just don't know." From the way she said the last part, I suspected not knowing was unfamiliar territory for her.

"Maybe we shouldn't worry about that," I suggested, standing up. "I mean, if I am, there's nothing we can do about it, if I'm not, what is the point of it? Let's just leave this alone now that everyone has had a few good shocks, okay?" I walked over to Viola, setting my hand on her shoulder. "Now you said you wanted to talk to me about something. What might that be?"

She nodded again, seeming to recover her composure in a few seconds. "Yes, I did. I was able to track down the demon hunter who removed the demon from Susan Monday night. He was drawn to town by the summoning of it. We don't know who summoned it, just that whoever it was has far more power then I do."

"And wants to kill me," I muttered under my breath.

"Yes, there is also that," she said with a worried look. "I have some friends trying to track down where the summoning took place. Hopefully we can trace it back to whoever has done this. For now I'm worried about what else he may try to do to kill Lithanial."

I sighed, sitting back down on my bed, my head in my hands. "To think, a week ago I was a perfectly normal kid, then next thing I knew, I fell off a roof, and start to fly." I sighed. "Now someone is trying to kill me for reasons I have no clue about. Sure it might be nice to have magic and all, but I'd rather have my life."

Kat placed her hand on my back. "Don't worry, we'll protect you, and find out who is trying to do this, and why."

"Can we change the topic to something less morbid?" Scott asked. "I understand the concern, and I do share it, but let's not talk about this until we can do more about it than talk, all right?"

Viola cracked a slight smile, turning her head to look at him. "Wise words, but I thought you were a football player?"

He smirked. "So, I've been slumming it. I am starting to find there is a lot more to life than football though. My sudden change shook me up a bit. I think I may try for a different set of priorities for now, see how things go."

"I find a new perspective is good for most people," she said, standing up, and brushing off the front of her pants. "I can't stay much longer. I have other things to attend to right now."

"Wait a moment," Kat said, rising to her feet. "I was wondering if Lith and I could have permission to do some decorative magic?"

She smiled, "Tomorrow is Halloween, are you planing to surprise a few trick-or-treaters?"

"No," Kat answered, "I was thinking it might be time for Lith and I to go to one of the school dances. We do need costumes though, and a little magic might help."

Viola laughed, a soft, pleasant laugh, something I hadn't expected to hear from her. "Be moderate with what you do. We don't need you sending up any flares for whoever is after Lithanial."

"Thanks," she said, sitting back down, and smiling at me. I wasn't smiling as much; I stayed away from the dances. I wasn't too thrilled to suddenly find myself going to this one.

"Um, may I take part in this as well?" Scott asked.

Viola smiled. "I suspect they could help you with a costume Scott."

"Ah, actually," he started to blush, this was far from the Scott I knew, he never blushed, stammered, or seemed unsure of himself. All of which he was right now. "I was thinking something a bit more than a costume."

She did a very good Mr. Spock impression, raising one eyebrow without changing the look on her face. "What were you interested in, then?"

Scott took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Can I be changed back into a girl again?" he asked very carefully, pronouncing each word in turn, not rushing it, or mumbling.

I was shocked, so was Kat for that matter. This was a side of Scott that was totally unexpected. After the way he had reacted when he was first changed, I would have thought a second one would be the farthest thing from his mind.

Viola just raised the other eyebrow. "Changing your gender is not as easy as Lithanial made it seem. It takes precision and control. Why exactly do you want to have this change?"

He took in another breath, now that it was out in the air he seemed to regain some of his composure. "It's not what you're thinking. I don't want to spend the day playing with myself or anything. I just... last time I was changed, I was scared, I didn't know what had happened. Now I do, and I regret that I was so scared. I have to admit, I also enjoyed it on some level. Not that new body actually, just the... just how it felt to be in a different body. I don't think I can really explain it, or even justify the request."

"Most of us are transformed at some point by our magic," Viola said, lowering her eyebrows, and crossing her arms. "Usually when we're just beginning, when we can't control it. There is an undeniable tingle to it, something that makes you want to do it again. I know people who haven't been human for decades, because they enjoying just being something else to much more. So I can understand your feelings on this matter."

He nodded. "I suspected you wouldn't allow it, I just had to ask."

She looked startled, "Whoever said 'no'? I don't recall that word leaving my lips. I'm telling you why you feel this way, not why I'm against it. You want to be involved with Katarina's and Lithanial's magic, then you should have a real experience with it. Both you and Lithanial be at Kat's house tomorrow morning at 10. I'll see if I have a spell to change you, if so, I will provide the change, not to mention a spell to change your clothing," she said the last part with a smile.

"Thank you," he said with an answering smile. "I was so sure I was asking a silly question."

She shook her head, walking towards the bedroom door. "Don't worry about it, child. You wish to experience the magic, and I think you should. You really should know what you're dealing with in detail. I'll see you tomorrow morning, bright and early," she said over her shoulder, as she opened the door out onto the Glade.

"We'll see you then," I answered. Kat said much the same. The door then closed, and the three of us were left alone in the room.

"She's right you know," Kat said, shifting a bit closer to me. "I have enjoyed the times I've been transformed, though I usually prefer something a bit more exotic than a crow."

"I find I'm not interested in being changed again," I told her, rubbing the back of my neck, which had started to cramp up for some reason. "I look on it as a learning experience, but I wasn't particularly enamored with the event."

She shrugged. "Some people don't, I guess."

I nodded. "So, do you have any idea what to dress up as for the party?"

She gave me one of her patented smiles, the kind that make me worry, as well as jump for joy. "Depends on what you think about having fur again."


Part 11

Bright and early, just before ten the next morning, I arrived on Kat's doorstep. I gave it a quick knock then settled back on my heels, waiting for someone to answer and feeling a bit nervous. I had spent the day before trying to pull out of her exactly what she had in mind for our 'costumes' but all that she would surrender was that they had fur.

The door opened a moment later and Kat's face looked out at me. A smile was painted across it, which was reflected in her eyes. She opened the door the rest of the way and motioned for me to come inside. "Good news! My parents are spending the day over in Springfield. We have the whole place to ourselves!"

I smiled and nodded pleasantly as I stepped over the threshold and into the living room. "Has Scott arrived yet?"

"Yes, he's waiting in my room. Come on, Viola should be here any time now." She took my arm in her hand and pulled me quickly up the stairs. I followed behind her, wondering why she was so excited about this. I wasn't; in fact I had been dreading it from the moment she had asked permission.

I wished that she had asked if I wanted to go before she dragged me along on this. Then again she already knew what my answer would have been. Simply, and unequivocally, "No".

And if I'd had a single clue about what was going to happen to us, I would have made sure I had never gotten involved in the first place.

She pulled me inside her room just as her pager went off. "That will be Viola," I commented, stating the obvious. I slipped out of her grasp and walked over to the window seat. As I sat down, I noted that Scott had taken up a position on Kat's bed. He seemed to be trying very hard to look calm, and failing.

Not even bothering to check her pager, Kat simply shut it off as she turned around to close the door. She started her spell, and a few moments later the door opened onto the Glade. Viola stepped through into the room; she was wearing a very casual outfit with an ankle length skirt and a purse slung over one shoulder, all in a dark blue color.

"Good morning, Ma'am," Scott said, rising to his feet as she closed the door behind herself.

"It's looking that way, isn't it?" she answered, taking a few quick strides to stand in the center of the room. She looked to each of us in turn, a smile on her face. "I see you haven't started yet, Katarina."

Kat nodded, "Lith just got here, no time to do any work on our costumes. Scott is in your hands for today."

"Yes, I believe he is," she said, turning to look at our new friend. "Now, Scott, I have found the spell you were interested in. It's nothing fantastic; it will just give you the form you would have had if you were born female."

He nodded, shifting a bit uncomfortably on the bed. "That sounds pleasant," he said.

"It will be," she replied with a small smile. "The spell will also make you move naturally in your new body. You won't have to learn to walk again."

"That's good," he replied, rubbing his hands over his pants. "I was somewhat clumsy last time."

"Sorry about that," I said, a little sheepishly.

Scott let out a short laugh and smiled at me. "Nothing to be sorry about Lithanial, I got what I deserved."

Viola lifted her eyebrows, then shook her head. A small look of displeasure fluttered over her features. A look that I agreed with, something she understood.

"Come along then," she said as she walked over to Scott and offered him her hand. "We'll go into the guest room. I've brought some clothing that should fit you, but you're still going to have to change into them."

He nodded nervously and gulped, but still took her hand. Rising to his feet he looked her in the eyes. "Thank you," he said.

She smiled back and began to walk towards the bedroom door. "Don't thank me just yet. There's no guarantee that you won't get your period while changed. If that happens you'll be stuck that way until it's finished."

He paled slightly, following along after the elder mage. A smile had snuck on her face as she opened the door. I got the feeling she was just playing with him.

"Now, where were we?" Katarina asked as the door closed behind them.

I shrugged, "You were about to subject me to some kind of transformation."

She chuckled and walked over to where I was, joining me on the window seat. "You say it like it's an execution."

"Sorry, I'm just not thrilled with the idea," I replied, being honest. "In fact, it's not something I normally would want to do."

Kat frowned, and started to speak.

I cut her off, "But, this is something you want to do, so I will grudgingly go along."

"Really?" she asked, sounding a bit stunned.

"Yes, Kat, really," I replied. I felt a bit stunned myself as I said it.

She smiled and hugged me tightly for a moment, before breaking into a blush and pulling away. "Thanks, this means a lot to me."

"I know."

She pulled back, taking in a deep breath. "I have everything prepared, if you're ready."

"As ready as I'll ever be."

With a nod she stood up and walked over to her desk. She picked up a pair of plastic food containers and brought them back over to me. She handed me one, which had my name written on the lid in her flowing handwriting.

"What's this?" I asked, lifting it up to peer at it through the smoky plastic. I could see what looked like dirt and some leaves inside.

"The parts of the spell. I was up until two o'clock last night making them. They have to be made especially for each subject."

"I see," I said.

"Open it," she instructed, pulling the lid off of hers.

I followed suit, and as soon as I had removed the lid, my nose was flooded by the smells of spices. A strange mix of cinnamon, and mint, with a dozen others under it. It was overwhelming.

"Can you smell that?" Kat asked.

I nodded, blinking my eyes as they started to water. "Ya, that's pretty strong."

She smiled. "It means it's properly tuned to you. Only you can smell it."

"Oh, lovely," I replied with a dose of sarcasm.

With a quick move, she placed her hand inside of her container, and buried it into the dirt and leaves inside. She motioned for me to do the same, which I did.

"Ready?"

"Not at all," I replied.

She laughed, "To bad!" As she spoke, I could feel her magic beginning to build around her. Sparking and jumping invisibly over her skin, charging the air.

Kat lifted her free hand, holding it out for me to take.

With a deep breath, and a feeling of trepidation, I took her hand in mine. Instantly I could feel her magic rolling over my body like waves on the beach. It crashed over my arm and down my chest. In a moment I was covered in it's warm embrace.

"Add your magic to it, using mine as a guide."

I nodded, closing my eyes and reaching for my magic. First only a small tendril, which I touched to hers. I felt the color and the shape of the magic she had unleashed and used it to mold my own, letting it flow out to mingle with hers.

The moment I did, I felt the magic grow stronger, almost visibly around us as Katarina let out a short gasp. She was concentrating hard on the spell, reciting the words for it to herself.

I let out my own gasp when I realized that she wasn't saying anything! The words were hers, and in her voice, but weren't spoken. I was actually hearing... no feeling, the surface thoughts of her mind.

<<That's right Lith,>> she whispered through the magic, the words mingling with her chanting. <<And I can feel yours.>>

A shiver rolled over my back and down my chest. This was not an experience I wanted, and it scared me to be having it. My first instinct was to pull away, to break the connection, but I fought it back down. I was going to do this! I had said I would and I wasn't going to back out now.

The dirt under my hand was starting to grow hot, but not in an unpleasant way. It was the kind of heat a fire gives off on Christmas Eve, when there is a foot of fresh snow outside and it showed no signs of stopping until the next day. When you're sitting next to your true love, holding her in your arms, just watching the snow fall.

Suddenly it burst from my hand and raced up my arm like lightening. I let out a gasp as it covered my face, Kat's own gasp coming at the same instant. It cascaded down my chest and other arm then fell over my legs.

For a moment my whole body was covered in the warmth and then even more than that. It wrapped around my face, and my ears, and out along my spine.

As suddenly as it had come, it was gone, falling away like dry leaves, leaving me with a pleasant feeling all over my body... Including in places I never had before.

"The spell is done," Kat said, her voice sounding different, slightly muffled, but yet more bell-like than it had just minutes before.

I cracked open my eyes, and was surprised to find a black cat looking back at me.

"Katarina?" I asked. My tongue felt thick in my mouth, making my voice sound strange. It was also deeper, like it was resonating in my chest.

She nodded then reached up with a fur covered hand and placed it gently on the side of my face. No... not my face. I crossed my eyes to see a short black muzzle where my nose would be.

I lifted my own hands and found them covered with the same black fur as hers. I closed my eyes and took stock in my body. I had all ten fingers and toes. Along with longer, mobile ears, and a tail trailing down over the back of my pants.

"You think this might be too much of a costume for a school dance?" I asked, opening my eyes again.

She let out a soft laugh, which rang out from her like chimes. "Oh, no one will question that it's a costume; it really won't register that they aren't fabric."

I shook my head, "Then why not just use a normal costume?"

"Oh Lithanial," she replied, "where would the fun be in that?"

I was saved from having to say anything else by a soft knock on the door.

Kat smiled and stood up. "That must be Scott," she said, clapping her hands together. She walked quickly over to the door, her long tail swaying behind her as she moved, brushing the carpet with each step.

I started to think about how nice it made her ass look, before shoving such thoughts away. She was my friend, I was not going to think of her like that!

She opened the door, peeking out the crack for a second, before swinging it open wide. Standing on the other side was Scott, now female, and looking much the same she had a few nights before.

She had changed clothing, and was now wearing a knee-length skirt, and a blouse that hung nicely over her new frame. Her long hair had been tied back into a pony tail, and swung about half way down her back.

I smiled. "You look good, Scott."

She nodded, gulping and walking into the room. She was wearing a short pair of pumps, and she seemed to lack the confidence to move smoothly in them.

"Thank you Lith," she said, brushing a few stray hairs out of her eye. I noted that she had makeup on as well, and her nails had been painted.

I glanced at the clock on Kat's wall, and was surprised to see that it was almost noon! Our little spell had taken a lot longer then it had felt like.

"So, what should we call you?" Katarina ask the new female.

She blushed a bit. "I hadn't thought about that," she said, taking a seat on the bed.

Viola came in to the room, smiling happily. "She was easy to change, a very willing subject. I think she will be a good partner for you two in your magic."

Kat giggled and clasped her hands tightly. "Oh, that's great!"

I raised my eyebrows, feeling my ears tilt at the same time. "Why is that?"

Viola answered, "The addition of a magically open person to a pair of powerful magic users, like you are, increases the power of them all."

"I see," I replied.

"Sabrina," Scott said, as the conversation faded out.

"Your name?" Kat asked.

She nodded. "I think it sounds nice."

Viola nodded with a smile. "I agree. Then Sabrina it is."

She smiled happily and blushed slightly under her makeup.

"I'm pleased that you are all enjoying your changes," Viola said, brushing her hands over her blouse. "I must go now, I have things at home that need my attention. Call me when you return home, and I'll turn Sabrina back into Scott."

I wasn't enjoying my change, but I bit my lip instead of saying anything. I could see that I was the only one in the room who felt that way.

There was a little bit more banter between Viola and Kat, before the elder mage opened the door back to the Glade, and slipped away.

Kat had a strange smile on her face, her tail flicking quickly behind her. "We could be a triad," she said with a soft purr like sound.

"Is that a good thing?" I asked.

She nodded. "Very few mages ever form triads. It's hard to find two compatible mages, finding a magically open third person is even more difficult. It hardly ever happens by accident."

"Wow," Sabrina said with a smile. "So this is kind of special, isn't it?"

"Sounds like it," I replied. "That is, of course, assuming Kat and I are compatible as mages."

"Of course we are," she said, walking over to me. "We wouldn't have been able to mix our magics like we did if we weren't."

"Oh," I replied, feeling a bit put out.

She laughed and placed her hand on my shoulder. "It will take time Lith; as long as we keep working together, it will grow."

I nodded, which seemed to effectively end the conversation at that point.

"So, what do we do now?" Sabrina asked, picking at her skirt, still a little bit nervous.

"Well the dance doesn't start till six," Kat answered, with a smile. "We could go hit the mall for a bit, show off."

Sabrina smiled, "I think that's a great idea!"

I shook my head and ran a hand over my head, jumping a bit when it brushed against my ears. This was going to be a very long day.

* * *

Five hours worth of mall walking was never my idea of fun, and today was no exception. Most of it was spent with Katarina and Sabrina window shopping.

Sabrina seemed to be enjoying the experience, losing her nervousness after a couple of hours. She really seemed to take to being a girl, even when she was hit on a few times. Surprising considering how the change had happened the first time.

For my part, I just tagged along and pretended to look interested in what was going on. I wasn't doing that good of a job of it, as Kat commented on it a few times.

She asked me a few times if I wanted to leave, but I turned her down. I could tell that she was enjoying herself, and the attention our 'costumes' garnered. So, I just kept my mouth shut and tagged along for the day.

I did get a few comments because of my outfit, mostly complements on it. A couple snide jokes from people I knew in school, but I was able to brush them off like I always did.

We did leave as it neared time for the dance, piling into Kat's car and heading back toward the high school. I was nervous about this. I had good reason not to go to them before. Reasons which hadn't changed just because I could do magic.

If anything, that little fact argued for me to stay away from the dance.

Not to mention the fact that someone was trying to kill me. It was something I had been trying not to think about, but had been slowly putting me on edge as the day went on.

I wished I knew why someone would want me dead. other than the usual reasons the bullies at school had. But that was another problem. I had magic, true, but I had so little skill as to make it worthless, and I hardly was a threat to anyone at all.

Apparently someone had decided otherwise, I just wished I had even a clue as to why they had. I was used to dealing with risking bodily harm every day, that was whole point of school for some people. But to know that out there, somewhere, someone was actively trying to end my life? That was another thing entirely, and that knowledge was starting to settle in the pit of my stomach like a boulder.

And here I was, transformed into some kind of human black cat, going out in public and probably smelling of magic. Thankfully it was Kat's magic, otherwise I would have been in real trouble.

Still, I had to consider that Susan went after me in person. It was quite possible that whoever summoned the demon who possessed her knew who I was. In that case, there wasn't much at all I could do to stop them from finding me.

As we pulled into the school parking lot, I could already hear the music that was pounding inside the gym. With a quick glance at my watch I saw it was just past six and the dance had probably started a few minute early.

I squirmed my way out of the car's back seat and into the night. It was already starting to grow cold, but thankfully the fur coat keep me warm enough that I didn't need my jacket. Which was a benefit, considering I had left it at Kat's place.

"You ready for this?" Kat asked, the question more directed towards Sabrina, then myself.

"I think so," she replied, pulling on her blouse, "At least I'll have the best costume."

Kat laughed and started walking towards the gym. "If anyone can guess who you really are, which I doubt."

"They will have better luck with us," I replied, following a few steps behind the girls.

"Don't worry about it Elf-Boy," Sabrina said. "Everyone knows you don't come to these things. No one will be expecting you at all."

I shrugged, "I hope so. I don't need to get beaten up again so soon."

"I'll stop them for you," she replied, puffing herself up as we walked.

For the life of me, I couldn't tell if she was joking, or actually serious about it. With her difference in mass from what Scott had I doubted she was as strong as she thought she was and the sight of a pretty girl walking around like a puffed-up jock was hard not to laugh at.

"Thanks," I said. "I appreciate that."

We finally reached the door to the gym. The music coming through it was almost deafening and actually caused the metal doors to rattle in the frames. Kat shot us a look that seemed to say 'This is it,' and pushed the door open.

Light and sound assaulted me as soon as I stepped inside. Almost instinctively I squinted my eyes and laid my ears flat on my head. "Is it always like this?" I asked, nearly yelling to be heard over the noise.

"Pretty much," Sabrina replied in the same fashion. "It usually gets louder later on in the evening."

"Wonderful," I replied, my sarcasm being lost in the noise of the music.

Suddenly Kat grabbed me by the wrist. "Come on Lith, lets go dance!" she said with a laugh and pulled me out onto the gym floor.

I let out a squeak of protest, which was enveloped by the music. I was planning to spend the whole evening eating food and standing by the wall. I might consider dancing with someone, but not right away, and definitely not with Kat!

Naturally I had no clue how to dance, never having had a reason to try it before now. Not that it seemed to matter from the way everyone else was going about it. It was mostly wiggling and gyrating in time to the pounding music.

Kat stopped near the middle of the floor and turned around to face me, a smile on her muzzle. She let go of my wrist and started to move in time with the music.

She was surprisingly graceful, moving and turning like water, ever motion was smooth and helped to highlight her figure. Even her tail was moving in long slow sweeps behind her.

After a moment, she glared at me, "Come on Lith!" she said, reaching forward to tweak my whiskers.

I gulped, and started to move in time with the music, following Kat's lead. I didn't have her grace, or experience at it, but I managed to get along well enough to not embarrass myself.

After the song ended Kat gave me a quick hug, pulling away before any of the teachers who were chaperoning could notice. "You did pretty good. Your first time?"

"It was," I answered, blushing slightly.

"Well, practice makes perfect. I can't let you stop now," she said with a smile as the next song began. If anything it was even louder then the previous one.

The night kind of went into a blur after that. She had me dancing with her almost every single song. I at least was able to beg out of the slow ones, but otherwise I was almost always on the dance floor.

I noticed that Sabrina had joined us after some time had passed, dancing with one of the freshmen to start with. She switched partners through most of the night, sometimes dancing with the same boy twice, but not often.

Interestingly, I saw her turn down every one of the jocks who tried to cut in. Some of her responses were down right nasty and a few of them left blushing like crazy. Mostly she stuck with the young men who would never have had anyone to dance with, but still came to these things anyway.

As the night wore on, I nearly forgot the things that had been weighing on my mind. At least until Kat's pager went off around eight o'clock.

She frowned, and stopped dancing to fish it out of her pocket. Looking at the screen, she frowned. "It's from Viola," she said.

"Is it important?"

"She wants you to call her right away," she replied. "Do you have her number?"

I shook my head.

She nodded and shoved the pager back into her pocket. We walked over to the refreshments table and she picked up a napkin. Using a pen she had in her purse she jotted down the number.

"Here," she said, handing it to me.

I took it from her, glad I had a calling card in my wallet. My parents had given it to me so I could call them any time I needed to. It wasn't meant for calling long distance, but I could explain it later.

Taking the number I wandered outside of the gym to where the school's pay phone was. I quickly punched in the dozen numbers I needed for the call and waited patiently as the phone rang.

"Lithanial," Viola said, as soon as the phone was answered. She sounded slightly panicked.

"Viola, what's up?" I asked.

"Where are you? Are you still at the dance?" she asked, almost demanding.

"Yes, I am. Why do you ask?"

She let out a long sigh. "I know who summoned the demon, who's after you. He's a killer, Lithanial, he's been hunting changelings all over the world the last ten years. He seems to think you're one. As long as you're with the crowd, he won't attack, but don't leave."

I stood there for a second, feeling a bit stunned as I took this all in. "Like I just did to call you," I muttered into the phone.

"Shit, get back inside now!"

I slammed the phone down, and spun around on my heel, only to find a man standing a dozen feet from me. He was dressed casually in a shirt and jeans and a hat was pulled down over his forehead. His face was twisted into a smile which showed far too many teeth.

"I'm not a changeling," I protested, "I just turned eighteen yesterday."

"So?" he asked, "Your age has nothing to do with it." Almost like magic, a small gun appeared in his hand.

I glanced around, trying to see if anyone was around, but we were alone at the moment.

"It has every thing to do with it," I replied, trying hard not to look at the gun. "I only came into my powers a week ago. If I was a changeling, that would have happened a year ago."

He shrugged. "Your age has nothing to do with it, you're still using elvin magic, you look like an elf, and you stink like an elf. That's enough for me."

"You're making a mistake," I said, wondering if I could rush him, to try and take the gun away. Of course realistically speaking that was a dumb idea--he would have shot me before I could go even a few feet. Instead I started gathering my magic, hoping to surprise him.

He frowned and clicked his tongue slightly. "And here I thought you would be smart."

Then he fired the gun.


Part 12

I twisted away as the shot echoed in my ears. Closing my eyes tightly I prepared myself for the impact. An impact that didn't arrive.

Snapping my head back around, I looked at my attacker. He was staring down at his gun. The bullet had lodged at the end of the barrel, making the weapon useless.

"Run, Lith!" I heard Kat call. I glanced towards the gym, watching as she ran towards me. I could feel the magic echoing off of her. She must have stopped the bullet. Sabrina was a few feet ahead of her, and gaining quickly.

My attacker growled and threw his gun to the ground, starting towards me. I twisted away from him, just seconds before Sabrina crashed into his chest, sending them both to the ground.

I dug my feet in, and started running hard towards the football field, the only place I could think of where no one would be around. I didn't need to give this guy targets.

Behind me I heard a grunt, and a yelp of pain. Glancing over my shoulder I saw that he had thrown the once male to the ground and was rising to his feet. As he rose, he pulled a dagger from a sheath on his belt.

I pushed myself faster, years of experience running from bullies giving me strength. It was a strange feeling, having the wind moving through my current fur, one that made me feel like I could run faster than I ever had before. Still, from the glance I shot back at him, it was clear that he was faster than I was, and would catch me by the time I got to the far side of the field.

There was no easy way I could fight him, not that I knew of. He had felt my magic when I had tried to use it; that took away any surprise I might have gained from that. I wished I still had the elven blades from before, that would at least have given me a weapon.

I twisted on my heel, and headed towards the bleachers, hoping I could find something there to defend myself with or to turn into another sword. With a glance over my shoulder I watched my attacker follow suit. Katarina and Sabrina were following just behind him, and I could see that Kat was starting to cast a spell.

Normally I hated running to the bleachers, it was a dead end. The back side butted up against the edge of the fence, trapping those who would run under there for protection.

Running, I was always running from everyone, and now I was running to a dead end. I had to do something else, now! Using my brain and my magic I had been able to beat Susan when she was possessed by a demon. I should be doing the same here.

This guy was smarter than that, though, wasn't he? Susan had tried to kill me, he instead had decided to talk to me. I had my back to him when he first got to me, and he could have killed me then and there, but he wanted to grouse about it first.

All right, could I use that to my advantage? I didn't know, but I had to try before he managed to kill me, or hurt my friends.

I grabbed a quick handful of magic, and spun around on my heel. I saw him, he was about twenty feet away, his face red, and his features in an angry scowl.

Without stopping my turn, I cast the magic out into the familiar fire spell I had been practicing so often of late. It sparked on his shirt, and it caught fire.

I heard him let out a yelp of pain as I keep running, only giving a quick glance over my shoulder, but it was enough to see him rip his shirt off. He stomped on it for a moment, slightly panicked, before turning his attention back to me.

It was just a way to delay him, but it had allowed me to pull ahead by a few seconds. I turned as I ran, moving in around him, and towards my friends as they cut across the field.

"What do we do?" I asked Kat as we meet up, I didn't stop, but was getting short of breath. They girls started to run with me, as we arched across the middle of the field.

"I don't know," Kat replied, her feline features twisted in a look of fear. "I don't think we can stop him, just get away from him."

"Is he human?" Sabrina asked. Of the three of us, she was the only one not struggling for breath. I guess Scott's endurance from playing football had carried over to her.

Kat shook her head. "I can't tell, he doesn't feel like he's not human, but there's a lot of magic wrapped around him."

"I wish I had some sort of weapon," I said as I glanced back, he was starting to catch up again. Under the moonlight I could see a series of scars crossing over his chest in a hatched pattern. Some of them were fresh cuts, and I could see him using his dagger to make new ones as he ran.

"What is he doing to himself?" I asked, starting to pant, a strange experience with the muzzle.

Kat glanced back then frowned. "Blood, he's using his own blood to gain power. He's going to cast a spell."

I was already starting to feel the magic prickling in the air, even before she finished speaking. Almost on instinct I grabbed my friends, and yanked sideways. We fell to the ground in a pile, rolling over the grass. An instant later the air above us did... something, something that it shouldn't have. Like it was ripped open into someplace that the eye couldn't see, but the body could feel. The strange mix of burning heat, and ice cold lasted only for a moment, but I was sure I would remember it for the rest of my life.

Which, at the moment, still had the potential of being very very short.

My attacker was still running towards us, yelling something in a language I didn't understand. I had to guess that it wasn't anything complimentary towards me.

With only a few seconds before he reached us, I struggled to sit up, half pinned by Sabrina. Reaching behind my wall, I threw more magic at him. I tried to shape it, but didn't have time to think about it.

It still had the useful effect of throwing up a milky wall in front of him. He saw it at the last moment, too close to stop himself. He plowed into it, twisting as he did, his shoulder hitting it with a loud crack.

"Kat, can you transform him into something? Anything that would be easier to deal with?" I asked, pulling myself up to my feet.

"Not without time to prepare," she said, helping Sabrina stand.

"Keep moving, I'm the one he wants," I ordered, watching as he started to walk around the wall. I moved it, keeping it between him and us for the moment.

"We're not going to leave you, Lithanial," Sabrina said.

I nodded, frowning as I felt pressure on the wall, magical pressure that was starting to build up rapidly. "I'm not sure I can hold this very long. Is there any way we can call for help?"

"Not without leaving you," Kat replied.

I grunted, pushing back on the wall, trying to spread it out, hoping to make a box around him. "Do that, then. Call Viola, and get some reinforcements, or something. This guy has been killing changelings, I'm sure someone will want to get their hands on him."

"I am not--" she started to say.

"Shit," I yelled as the wall slammed back at me. I was able to stop it for the moment and shove it back towards my attacker, but it wasn't going to hold up for more than another few seconds.

"Fine, then," I snarled. Glancing at Kat, I dug the napkin with Viola's number out of my pocket, and shoved it into Sabrina's hands. "You do it, call this number and get help!"

She frowned, glancing at me, then back my attacker, then down at her hands. "I'll be as fast as I can," she said, and started running for the phone.

"Kat, I could use some help here," I said a bit desperately, using all my energy to hold the wall in place.

"I'm trying," she said, "but my magic keeps sliding off of yours. I can't affect it."

I frowned, "All right, then put up another wall, so I can drop this one for a moment. Maybe we can box him in?"

She nodded, and half closed her eyes, her magic building for a few second. Her tail flicked over to touch mine, as she cast her spell, and a second wall formed an inch behind mine.

I yanked my wall to the side, letting the force he was applying to it fall onto Kat's wall. Quickly, I tried to wrap it around him, sealing around the second wall, locking him in.

The new wall was as clear as glass, and behind it I could see my attacker. His whole chest was covered in long shallow cuts, weeping blood down his skin. There was a look of rage and concentration on his face as he rushed forward against the second wall.

He glared at the wall, watching as it stretched behind him, then shook his head. In a sudden move he lunged forward, pushing his fist forward and hitting Kat's wall. A blast of magic crashed down over the spell when he hit, sending ripples out over my body, standing my fur on end.

Then a second later Kat's wall crumbled away into nothing.

I yelled, and tried to pull my wall back around in front of him, trying to block his attack as he lunged forward with his knife. At the same time Kat grabbed my arm and pulled me sideways, twisting my body away from him.

It wasn't fast enough, as a moment later I felt a surge of pain running through my body. It ran over my back, like lightening, trails of pain running over my body, starting somewhere that I had never felt before.

Glancing behind myself, I watched my attacker crash into my new wall, now fully formed. On the ground a few feet away, in a pool of blood was my tail.

I reached behind myself, pressing my paw against the stump, wincing in pain as the blood ran down the back of my legs.

"Kat, can you do something?" I asked, feeling faint. Putting all my energy into trying to keep the wall up, which was all ready starting to fade. His constant attacks on it were draining what energy I had left.

I felt Kat's paw on my shoulder, her other pressed up against the wound, pulling my hand away. I winced in pain as she touched it, which causing the wall to waver.

My attacker was able to shove his fist through it, but just for a moment. It quickly reformed, and forced his arm back through. Still, it was growing weaker, each of his attacks bringing it closer to failing.

"You're going to have to release the transformation spell," Kat said, panting hard, "I've let my part go, but you're still holding into it."

I nodded, trying to control both the fading wall, and to break the spell. It was hard, the pain was growing worse with each second, making me feel faint.

Kat touched my shoulder, feeding me a little of her magic. I hung on to it tightly, using it to dive deeply into myself, to find the spell. Struggling like I was underwater, I finally gasped the threads of it with my fingers. With a yank I pulled them out, ripping the spell asunder.

In a burst of magic, the fur fell away, and my body reshaped itself, leaving me once more human. The pain vanished in a instant, along with the wall.

My attacker took the advantage, rushing forward the instant the wall failed. I twisted to the side, pulling away from him as he barreled past me. His knife flashed by just inches from my chest.

Kat reacted faster than I did, kicking her leg out and catching the back of his knees, sending him tumbling on to the grass.

I grabbed her, and started to run again. The extent of the magic I had used was make me weaker, pain starting to creep over my limbs as it burnt into my nerves.

"We've got to do something," she said, panting hard, "we can't keep fighting him off with your magic."

"I know," I said, gasping for breath. "Hopefully Viola can get help here soon."

She nodded, grabbing my arm and pulling me to the side. Once more sending us running towards the bleachers.

I followed, a bit surprised. "Why are we going this way?" I asked. "It's a dead end, we'll be trapped!"

"I'm going to rip the fence open, then shut it closed on his face. It hopefully will give us a few more moments."

"And then what?" I asked. "We can't bring him near anyone else, he could kill them!"

"I don't know," she said, frustration in her voice, as we drew closer. I could feel her magic already starting to build. "But we have to do something!"

"Right," I started to say, right before I saw a wall shooting up in front of us. I tried to slow down, grabbing at Kat's arm and pulling her back, but the wall was too close.

We both plowed against it, crashing into each other before tumbling to the ground. Her feline body tangled with my own.

It was lucky that we landed as we did, as a sudden burst of magic shot over us, leaving a glowing trail of fire in its wake. It impacted the wall, and slashed off of it, tumbling over the wall and falling into the bleachers.

With a silent explosion the spell wrapped over the wooden and steel structure. It rippled and twisted in ways never meant by nature, parts of it collapsing in on itself, vanishing into a point of light. Then with a flash of darkness it vanished, the rest of the bleachers falling to the ground in a pile of debris.

I twisted off of Kat, pulling myself upright. My attacker had come to a stop, the blade of his knife sunk deep into the side of his arm, a look of rage on his face.

Magic wasn't going to stop this guy, I had to do something meaner, nastier. Something more along the line of his attacks than I was used to. I had to get physical.

Standing my ground, I reached out with my magic and picked up a bundle of debris, throwing it all towards him. I followed it up with a blast of heavy magic.

He threw his arms up, his own magic rippling through the air as the material crashed around him, none making contact with his flesh. A moment later my spell hit, pressing through his shield, and throwing him backwards a dozen feet.

I ran towards the ruins of the bleachers, grabbing more of its remains with my magic, trying to be more specific in the items I was going to use. Spinning back around to face him, I threw a second blast of magic, followed by two large planks of wood.

He was on his feet again, throwing out bolts of his own magic to match mine. I could see that he was hurt; burns crossed over his chest in a spider web pattern against the scars.

The two bolts of magic collided in midair, flowing against each other like water. Then both exploded in a blast of white light. The two planks burst through the remains of the spells, the flat ends crashing against his chest with the force of a speeding truck.

He fell back to the ground a second time, moaning in pain.

I took the opportunity to throw a net of magic down against him, wrapping it tightly over his body, the ends drilling down deeply into the surface of the field. Down almost a hundred feet down into the earth and anchoring into the bedrock.

He twisted under the bindings, trying to pull free. I could feel his magic battering against the web, slowly causing it to weaken. I responded by pouring more power into it, pulling it tight against his weeping flesh. Finally a whimper of pain gasped from his lips, as his magic faded away.

I had won.

Kat was at my side, her feline hand on my shoulder. "Viola's coming," she said, "I can feel it."

"Good," I said in a weak voice, my knees feeling like water. They started to wobble under my weight, then fell out from under me and I collapsed into Kat's arms.

She held me tight against her, slowly lowering me to the ground. My face pressed up against the warm fur of her neck. I could still feel her shaking, a wisp of fear still clinging to her.

Sitting down on the grass, I tucked my head between my knees, feeling nauseous. The aftereffect of the magic was burning at my nerves, a slowly growing fire that was threatening to consume me at any moment.

It wasn't as bad as the last time. I could still get my feet under me, if I wanted to. At the moment I wasn't keen on the idea.

I glanced over at my attacker. He hadn't moved yet, instead he was lying still, his breathing shallow as blood ran down his sides and onto the grass.

"He thinks I'm a changeling," I said, managing to catch my breath. "He's trying to kill me because of that."

She nodded, running her fingers over my cheek. "You're human through and through, you couldn't possibly be a changeling. You're just too old."

"I know," I said with a sigh. "I think he knows that as well, but he doesn't care. He says I smell like an elf. What does that mean?"

"Exactly what it sounds like," Viola said as she approached us, walking briskly across the field, a dark, and angry look fixed on her face. "Some people can smell elves, and perhaps this man," the way she said it, made me think she only used the word because there was nothing else available, "can do just that."

"But how could I smell like an elf?" I asked, straining slightly as I stood up. For the moment, only Kat's arm under my shoulder was helping me stay there.

The elder mage sighed, and shook her head. "I don't know, Lithanial," she said, turning to face me. "Your age is the only thing that's preventing you from being a Changeling. But I'll be honest; it's a real possibility that he's right, that you are an elf. I just don't know how."

"Maybe we should ask him?" Kat asked, pointing back to my attacker.

A deep frown passed over my face, which was matched by an equally deep one from Viola. "I'm not sure that would be a good idea."

"I agree," she replied. "I have been studying this man, and none of what I've found is very good. It looks like he's killed at least a dozen changelings over the last ten years, all over the country. It's hard to keep track, no one keeps good records about the deaths of magic users."

I nodded, pushing out of Kat's grasp. "He's also the only one who knows exactly why he thinks I'm an Elf, not to mention why he's killing them. We need controlled conditions, but we should get what we can from him."

Viola sighed, walking over to place her hand on my shoulder. "The High Council are on their way, they should be here any minute. They will take him over from us then."

"What are they going to do to him?" Sabrina asked, finally returning to our group.

"I can think of a dozen things," Viola said with a dark smile. "In the end I suspect he will be given to the Elves for punishment. That will be a very unique experience for him, and one that will last for centuries."

I felt something snap against my magic. An echo that rippled down the conduit that was holding the web in place and deep inside of me. I shivered as it ran over me, letting out a soft gasp as my legs start to go out a second time.

Kat and Sabrina were instantly at my side, holding my arms as Viola took a step forward. Her hand slipped away from my shoulder as I landed hard on my knees.

"Are you all right?" Kat asked, leaning down to look at my face.

I shook my head, feeling another, stronger, snap running back against me, causing me to shake again. Behind my friends I could see my attacker straining against his bonds. Blood was running down his arms from where the web was cutting into the flesh.

Gasping, I tried to say something, to warn them as another surge came. This one shaking my whole body down the bones. Slowly, I started to fall forwards, trying to send my own magic back at my attacker as he began to rip free of his bonds.

A final wave came over me, and it felt like I had been tackled by a linebacker. Then with the sound of silent thunder, the spell holding my attacker to the ground shattered into dust.

When the spell broke, the pain fell from me like ashes. "Look out!" I was able to yell as I pulled myself up from the ground.

Viola's eyes went wide. A moment before she spun around a massive blast of magic lighting up the air around us. She had managed to block the huge ball of fire my attacker had sent at me. She held it frozen in midair before it dissipated into smoke.

"Run!" Viola snapped at us, a second spell flying from her fingers and crashing into him. He was blasted backwards, falling off his feet and rolling on the ground. The recoil from the blast sent her skidding back over the grass as well, but she managed to stay on her feet.

Sabrina started to run, but Kat stayed to help me back to my feet. Once I was stable, we both watched as Viola started a third spell, countering a spell my attacker had thrown as he clambered to his own feet.

Kat and I glanced at each other, and together we took a few steps towards Viola. We weren't going to leave her to his attacks. A moment latter Sabrina joined us, placing an hand on each of our shoulders.

"He's powerful," Kat said, watching as our mentor fought for our lives. "Viola might not be able to stop him."

"Then we'll have to," Sabrina said.

"All he wants is me," I said, watching the battle before us, so much magic was being tossed around I was surprised no one had notice it. It was creating quite a light show. "Both of you can leave now, and be safe."

"We'd never do that," Kat said, "You know that, that's why we're all here."

I nodded, watching as Viola was tossed around like a rag doll. I could feel the air as it was growing tight around her, folding down on top of her.

"He's crushing her," Kat said, her voice wavering slightly. "I don't think she can stop it."

I looked at my attacker, all his attention was focused on Viola, his face a mask of anger, twisted and evil. His chest and arms were now covered in a layer of his own blood, dripping from his skin and covering the grass at his feet in a red shine.

And he wasn't paying any attention to us.

"Kat, I need your magic," I said, holding my hand out to her. For the moment the pain in my nerves was gone, vanishing under a surge of adrenalin. I only had moments to do this, and if I failed it would probably cost Viola her life.

She grasped my hand with her furry paw, and I squeezed it tightly, feeling her magic flooding down into me. I took it, molding it with mine, building together a massive spell. I shaped it into a spear of energy, held out in front of my body. There was enough power in it, that the magic took a physical form, shining like lit glass in the darkness of the field as it came into existence.

Then I threw it, hard and fast, with every ounce of power that both Kat and I could muster. It shot through the air with a scream like a jet engine, and crashed into my attacker's side.

It ripped through his body, sending a spray of blood and tissue over the grass as it burst out the far side of his chest. He gasped, twisting to the side, and falling to the ground.

Viola fell at the same moment, landing hard on the grass, gasping for air. Her eyes were locked on my attacker's dying form.

Kat slipped out of my grasp, and ran over to her mentor, shouting something.

I just stood where I was, starring at him, as his blood pooled on the ground. He would be dead in only a few moments, and at my hands. I had taken a life, I had used my magic to take a life.

I felt ill, a deep bubbling sickness that rose up from a part of me I never knew existed. In killing him I had saved Viola's life, and surely mine as well, but it still hurt. It hurt like nothing I had ever done before.

"Thank you, Lithanial," Viola said, walking to my side. "You saved my life."

I turned my head to look at her, feeling slightly faint. Some part of me noticed that the burning of my nerves had faded away. The pain from using so much magic was gone. "It's what I had to do," I said, lamely.

"You did what was right," a new voice said, coming from behind the three of us.

Slowly I turned around, to the see the five members of the High Council standing there, watching us. The leader, and eldest, had been the one to speak.

"It still feels wrong," I said, half to myself.

The leader came over to me, placing his hand on my shoulder. "Killing is never easy, but sometimes it's necessary."

"How much did you see?" I asked.

He shook his head. "We saw it all through a scrying stone, but we just arrived. The only thing we could do was to hide this from prying eyes."

"Thank you for that," Kat said.

The Council split up, three of the members going to my attacker, who was surely dead by now. The other went to talk to Viola as the leader stayed with me.

"I have one question for you, Lithanial," he said, in a serious tone of voice.

"What?" I asked, worried.

"How did you do the spell?" he asked, a touch of awe showing on his face. "Making magic physical is suppose to be impossible. People have been trying for centuries, but tonight you did it."

I shook my head. "I don't know."

"The power you have is impressive, I think if you stay your course, some day you'll be on the Council, if not leading it." There was a level of conviction in his voice that actually scared me.

"It's not something I want," I said. "I'm not even sure if I want this magic anymore." The words came, even before I had thought them, but I knew they were true.

"Holy shit!" someone cried out. The Council leader and I both turned to look at the other members who were huddled over my attacker's body. Which was slowly decomposing into dust.

We ran over to the body, stopping before it as it collapsed into the grass. "It was just a shell," he said.

"You mean he's still alive?" I asked, a strange mixture of relief and dread filling me.

"Yes, but not here. He was controlling this body from somewhere else."

I sighed, "So it's not over."

"For now it is," he replied, "Your attack will have seriously hurt him, no matter where he was. He won't be able to attack you again for some time. That gives us a chance to protect you properly, like we should have done after the first attack."

"That would be greatly appreciated," I said, glancing back at Kat. "I was only able to stop him by using some of Katarina's magic. Without her, he probably would have killed Viola."

He nodded, "The pair of you make a good team."

"Trio," I corrected, motioning towards Sabrina with my hand, to where she was standing beside Kat, talking with her.

The Council leader smiled, "So I see."

"Why don't you, Sabrina and Katarina, go back to the Dance," Viola said, walking up to us. "The Council and I will try to use the remains to track down where your attacker really was. Hopefully we can capture him before he comes after you again."

"I'm not sure--" I started to say, but was cut off by the Council Leader lifting his hand.

"You go, and spend the rest of the night being teenagers, I think you all need it. I'll work with Viola to arrange some protection for you until we can stop him properly. For now, just go have some fun."

I glanced over at Kat, who was walking towards me. "All right. I think I can manage that for now."

"Good," he said and patted me on the shoulder.

"You know, I never caught your name," I said to him.

He smiled at me, "I never gave it to you. I'm Horatio."

"Nice to meet you," I replied, and placed a hand on Kat's shoulder, leading her back towards the Gym.

"You're out of costume," Kat told me as we walked across the grass, Sabrina following just behind. "People will recognize you."

I shrugged, "I don't much care anymore, Kat. After all of that, I think I can deal with the school bullies."

She smiled at me, and then nodded, as we walked back towards the party.

* * *

A few hours later, Kat dropped me off in front of my house. The dance was finished, and things had settled back into their normal places. Viola and the Council had left by the time things had begun to wrap up, but at least no one had attacked me. Even Mike Ryans had left me alone at the dance, which I thought was a pleasant surprise.

I waved to Kat and Sabrina as they drove off. They were both heading back to Kat's place so they could bring Viola over to change Sabrina back into Scott.

I noticed the lights were out as I walked up the front steps. It seemed odd to me; at least my sister should be up at this time of night. It wasn't even that late, only ten in the evening.

Unlocking the door, I slipped inside the house, and reached for the light switch. Nothing happened when I flipped it.

"Great, the power is out," I muttered to myself, stumbling through the half lit room, trying not to run into anything.

"Mom? Dad? Trini?" I called out, sure that at least my sister was home. With the power out she would have to spend the evening off the computer, and it wasn't like she had anywhere else to go.

No answer came.

I frowned, and walked into the kitchen, heading towards the drawer where we kept the flashlights. I was surprised to find that it was completely bare, not even the rubber bands that Mom usually left in it.

I tried another drawer, and found it in the same condition. As my eyes adjusted, I could see that the whole room was empty, as was the dinning room, just through the doorway.

"What's going on?" I asked, moving through every room on the first floor, finding them all as empty as the day we had moved in.

Suddenly all the lights flared on, causing me to blink in surprise. I crouched down, half covering my eyes, not sure what had brought the light, but prepared for an attack.

A moment later Katarina pushed into the room, back to her normal human self, with Sabrina just behind.

"What's going on?" I asked, sounding worried.

"I don't know," she replied, shaking her head. "My home was the exact same way when we got there. I think Viola is missing as well, all I got was a disconnected notice when I tried to call her.

"How about you, Sabrina?"

She shook her head. "I don't know, I didn't try to go back home, not like this. Kat says Viola is the only one who can undo the spell, so I'm stuck for now."

"Shit," I said, pacing through the living room, frowning hard. Every sign of life in the room was gone, even the old stain my younger brother had caused a few days before he was killed; it was all gone.

Then with a puff of light and smoke, a folded up piece of paper appeared in the air in the center of the room, and fluttered to the ground.

Kat and I shared a worried look, as I reached down, picking it up gingerly in my fingers and slowly unfolding it, revealing the careful handwriting within.

I skimmed over it, feeling the blood run from my face as I took it in.

"What does it say?" Kat asked.

"Dear Changeling," I read aloud, "I have taken your loved ones, and the loved ones of your accomplice. If you ever wish to see them alive again, you must bring yourself to me in Underhill."

Kat frowned, biting her lip.

"What do we do?" I asked her, my voice shaking, as were my hands.

"The only thing we can do," she replied. "We have to go to Underhill."


This story is copyright 1997-2006 by Fox Cutter, hardcopy reprints limited to one per person, all other rights reserved. This story may not be distributed for a fee except by permission of the author, and this copyright notice may not be removed.


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