Searing pain bolted through Fael’s body and he convulsed on himself. He opened his mouth to scream but he wasn’t sure if anything came out—the blaring of the agony in his mind overpowered whatever he was trying to say. His eyes snapped open but his sight was blurred by terror and pain—
He came to, breathing deeply. Whatever had afflicted him was gone now, but his whole body was throbbing in such a way that it hurt to move. The beating of his heart was akin to thunder in his ears. Fael attempted to open his eyes, but fatigue made them as heavy as boulders, and he quickly drifted back into the warm darkness, where he hoped to stay.
“…five days! Nearly a week! We…”
Fael lifted his head towards the nagging voice and opened his eyes once more. A short distance away was a flickering orange light, but it was drowned out by pool of blue light coming in from the left. The adolescent could just barely make out a mobile, upright blob in the shape of a humanoid. The blob was waving its dark arms about as it ranted, a male voice fading in and out of existence.
“C’mon, we must leave! I can’t…too risky…. So! Get up!”
Fael spoke. A strangled, bugling sound mixed with chest-deep rumbles burst forth from his mouth and he reeled. His eyesight cleared and he swung his head wildly around.
A cave. A few meters away was a makeshift living area: a sleeping bag, books and pens and pencils, and even a pot of still-steaming stew. By the sleeping bag lay a feline mount, a beast Fael recognized as a barrah. Its bluish head was held high, ears pinned, as it stared at the adolescent before it. The barrah even scowled at him, revealing a pair of long fangs.
Behind Fael was—a purple dragon? No scales covered the body; instead, there was indigo fur. The dragon’s tail was tufted with violet feathers, and the wings consisted of feathers of the same color. Torn bits of clothing littered the beast, clothing that was oddly similar to the outfit he was wearing before he suddenly blacked out a while earlier. Fael’s eyes ran up the beast’s body until…
The body was his.
Fael screamed again and the same sound burst forth from his throat, broken and hoarse. The teen’s wings—wings!—battered the air, releasing great gusts of wind that sent parchments, papers, and articles of clothing flying around the cave chamber. Even the barrah had to lower its head to protect its eyes from the sudden wind, but it roared in response.
“Hey now!” snapped the male voice, and the blob hurried to catch the flying items. The man began to spout commands but Fael would have none of it.
What’s happened to me? What did you do? Where am I?
It was as if continuous stream of water, uncomfortably warm, was being doused over his mind. Sit! The voice held such authority that Fael dropped to his hands—paws?—and crouched, pulling his wings and tail close to his body. Fael lowered his head and stared at the man, fully seeing him, as the warmth faded away to nothing.
His back was turned, but saw that the man was of average height. Thin clothing obscured his musculature, but whenever the man reached out Fael noticed the hills of muscle that flexed as his arms moved. The man turned around, leveling the…dragon…with a stern, strikingly green glare. “Listen now, young dragonry. It’s good that you got a handle on your new body, but I’m afraid that none of us can stay here long. The Farris Art School or whatever it’s called is on high alert. They know you’re gone.”
The barrah snarled and prowled close to the man, baring its side to the dragonry. The man reached out with a medium-toned hand and stroked the barrah’s head. “Easy now, girl.”
Fael sat up and curled his lips, showing off teeth that he hoped looked dangerous. What have you done to me? Turn me back!
“I can’t do that! I needed whomever I could get, and you just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time! Well, for you. Right place, right time for me.” The man placed a hand on his heart, smiling. “Now, I made some stew for you.”
He pinned his ears. I don’t want it! What if you’ve poisoned it?
The man skirted the barrah and sauntered over to the pot. “Like I’d do such a horrendous thing! Personally I prefer betrayal, but you needn’t worry.” He was careful to keep the pot level as he walked over to Fael and placed the soup before him. “Here. The spell makes you ravenous, but this is all we have.”
A broth filled with meat, vegetables, and spices sloshed around within the pot. It smelled wonderful, lingering within his nostrils and making his mouth water. His stomach felt so empty, his limbs weak… No! Fael shook his head. You’re trying to get on my good side, aren’t you?
“You need to eat, dragonry.” The man was packing his items. Protecting him was the barrah, tail lashing and head low. “By the way, the barrah is Arona. Say hello, dearest.”
Green Eyes didn’t bother to turn around as he rolled his sleeping bag. “I think she likes you. Hurry up and eat. As soon as you’re done, we leave.”