Another story set in the regressive world of Springtide. Two cats, Scratch and Calex find themselves reduced to four years old and on an adventure to an ancient temple in search of treasure.
Scatch and Calex and the Temple of the Fey
Scratch was having a relatively normal day so far. The grey and black striped cat had gone for a delightful walk through some of the back-alley streets. And along the way he had discovered an absolutely wonderful little restaurant tucked away in a corner. The food was amazing. It was a small crowded restaurant with only a few tables minimum decorations. What décor there was seemed to be fairly old, possibly antiques. A brass cherub on the wall, a mirror mounted high above the front door, and other things like ancient looking posters. It felt cozy, a real hidden gem. It served as a good reminder that sometimes it was a good idea to sway from your usual paths to find new experiences.
After enjoying his meal, Scratch stood up to leave, approached the exit… And promptly had something fall from the ceiling on top of him.
“MROOOOOOOOOOOOWL!” The shout of a much younger cat sounded through the restaurant. “That was a close one.” It was a small orange kitten, not even two feet tall. He was currently sprawled out on top of Scratch and clutching a rolled-up parchment in one paw. Aside from the parchment, he had nothing else on him, not even a single article of clothing. The kitten sat up, seemingly unaware he was on top of someone else and began to stare at the rolled up scroll he held. There was some kind of glowing red string tied around it holding it closed, and as the kitten pulled on it the string refused to come loose.
“Um… Do you mind?” Scratch asked in an annoyed tone.
“Huh?” The kitten looked around confused, not sure where the voice was coming from. Then he finally noticed who he was sitting on. “SORRY!” Calex quickly leaped from atop Scratch and landed atop a nearby table. There he perched, like a perfectly normal cat on all fours, nothing like the bipedal stance he had been in moments ago.
“What was that about?” Scratch growled and as he stood up and brushed himself off. He then studied the kitten closely, certain he had been more humanoid just moments ago. “And why are you naked?”
“Because that’s normal?” The kitten seemed confused by the question. He slowly looked Scratch up and down studying the older cat’s outfit. A pair of blue shorts, along with a lighter blue jacket over some kind of short black track shirt with a white stripe running down it. “There a costume party?” The kitten tilted his head. “Cause I can’t think of any other reason that cats would need clothes.”
“Seriously?” Scratch stared at the little guy. He was certainly out there. “Who are you? And… Where are your parents?”
“I’m Calex!” The kitten leaped from the table landing in front of Scratch on two legs standing upright. His body shape had definitely changed shape. He held out a hand-paw that was clearly lacking opposable thumbs. “Calex Nekato. And I don’t have any parents. At least not any that I’m aware of.”
“Oh.” Scratch’s ears flattened as he realized he might have just brought up an unpleasant topic. He tried to move past it with his own introduction. “I’m Scratch.” He had to get down on one knee to shake the kitten’s paw.
“Nice to meet you!” Calex beamed. “And I may not have parents but I do have an owner! But he’s at work right now. Sadly, the freelance detective stuff isn’t always enough to make rent so he has to take on extra jobs. So… On days he’s not around I gotta find my own entertainment.”
“I see…” Scratch did not see. Not at all. That was a lot to take in. Owner? Detectives? He had to admit he was quite curious if the kitten was being truthful about this, or if he just had a very active imagination. “Where did you come from anyway? You kind of just fell out of the ceiling.”
“People don’t just fall out of ceilings.” Calex laughed. “At least not without leaving holes. Nah, I just came out of that.” He pointed at the large mirror mounted above the front door.
“The mirror?” Scratch arched an eyebrow. The mirror was mounted so high and at such an odd angle it was impossible for anyone in the place to make out their own reflection.
“Yeah, I went exploring on the other side of it today and got this!” Calex held up the scroll triumphantly. “But… I can’t get it to open… I think it might only open inside Springtide.”
“Springtide?” It was like every word the kitten spoke just raised more questions. But, he had to admit he was extremely curious where this was going.
“Yeah that’s the place on the other side of the mirror.” Calex nodded. “But I sort of had to make a very very quick escape, so didn’t really have time to watch where I was landing when I jumped out.” He held up the scroll. “The faeries were pretty upset when I managed to trick them out of this.”
Scratch had so many questions. But first, it was time to find out if any of this was real or just part of a very creative child’s imagination.
“How did you even get up to the mirror?” Scratch asked. “It’s pretty high up there.”
“Pffft, you already know that.” Calex grinned. “You’re a cat too after all.” The kitten put the scroll in his mouth and dropped down to all fours again, then leaped up onto a table. From there he jumped onto the bronze cupid sticking out of the wall. He hesitated there for a brief moment, then leaped again this time for one of the paintings. Mid-leap, his body changed, becoming humanoid again, and this time instead of paws he had proper hands with thumbs as he caught on to the very top of the picture frame. Scratch hadn’t imagined the earlier changes. The little guy was some kind of shape changer. From there, the kitten shimmied across until he reached the ledge above the door where the mirror sat. Then, he climbed up and sat down next to the mirror. “Just like that.”
“Just like that huh?” Scratch was a cat, and so of course was an impressive climber. But he didn’t exactly have the ability to change into a normal uncivilized cat. Some of those jumps and perches just weren’t going to be possible with a body as big as his. For now he played along. “And so there’s another world on the other side of the mirror?”
“Yup!” And without further remarks, the kitten jumped into the mirror’s surface and passed right through it. Scratch nearly fell over in shock. Did that mean everything he said was true? A burning need for answers and adventure rose within Scratch. Finding a new restaurant was a nice new experience, but an entirely new world? He had to get up there. Maybe he could find a ladder…
“So you coming or what?” The kitten popped back out of the mirror. “You seemed pretty interested.”
“Yeah I’ll come.” Scratch grinned. “Just give me a few minutes to find a ladder or some furniture I can stack.”
“I mean I could just carry you up.” Calex offered.
“Heh, sure that’ll work.” Scratch chuckled, but then he remembered the shapeshifting abilities the kitten had already displayed. He might not have been joking.
“On it!” Calex leaped down, apparently he wasn’t joking. He ran in a circle around Scratch, then suddenly grabbed the bigger cat by a leg and an arm and lifted him up over his head. The kitten adjusted his grip so as to be supporting Scratch’s back with both paws before tossing him upward onto the shelf with the mirror.
“GAAAH!” Scratch felt his tail poof up in surprise at being thrown. All four sets of claws came out and dug into the shelf. He recovered after a moment, that had just been very sudden. He looked down at the small kitten. “If it’s not too rude to ask… What are you?”
“A werekitten!” Calex puffed out his chest smugly.
“You don’t say.” Scratch took this at face value. It did explain a lot. If the little guy was a werebeast, then of course he’d have the ability to change shape… And most stories Scratch had heard of such creatures described them as having enhanced strength and stamina.
“Alright coming up!” The kitten repeated his earlier motions, jumping off of various decorations before landing on the ledge next to Scratch.
“So do we have to do anything, say any magic word to go through the mirror?” Scratch asked as he turned around. He froze as he saw his own reflection though.
“Nope just step through.” The kitten started to take a step forward and noticed Scratch had stopped moving. “Hey, something up?”
“No… Yes…” Scratch shook his head. “This is just… Trippy.” He was looking at the reflections of both him and Calex in the mirror. They were quite different from what they actually looked like. Well, Calex’s wasn’t that different. He was a little bit smaller, his tail shorter in length. And his paws looked like he hadn’t quite grown into them yet. Scratch though? Staring out from the other side of the mirror was a small child version of him, not even knee high compared to his current self. Said child was also wearing his same outfit… Though wearing was a generous term here that mostly meant buried in. Scratch supposed it shouldn’t be too surprising, he already knew it was a magic mirror. It was just kind of strange to see him as a kitten again.
He had been really cute back then!
“Anyway… Once we go through we’ll be in a big meadow. Should be safe there.” Calex explained. “When I went in a few minutes ago the faeries who had been chasing me had already left. Guess they didn’t think I’d be foolish enough to come right back in the same day.”
“And are you foolish enough?” Scratch ruffled the kitten’s head fluff.
“I’m as foolish as it takes to get the job done!” The kitten shouted as if this was something to be proud of. “Now then… Let’s go find that treasure!” And the kitten charged through the mirror again,
“Treasure?” Scratch didn’t remember him saying anything about that… But that could be what the scroll he was carrying around was related to. Well, if there was a prize to be won waiting on the other side of the mirror that just made things more intriguing. Without any hesitation, Scratch leaped through the mirror.
As promised, Scratch found himself in a sunny meadow full of soft grass and flowered when he arrived. A massive oak tree with a hollow stood in the center of the meadow, with said hollow being what Scratch came out of when he appeared. All of this he was ready for. His clothing suddenly being several sizes too big for him though? That was a bit of a surprise. His shorts fell right off while his jacket dragged on the ground and his track shirt was now touching the tips of his toes. Scratch wasn’t just smaller… His limbs were shorter, thicker in comparison, and torso smaller.
He was now the same four-year-old version of himself he had seen in the mirror. He supposed he probably should have seen that coming.
“Welcome to Springtide!” Calex was standing in the meadow beaming at him as he arrived. The kitten was also smaller now, but of course it was not as dramatic. He too had dropped to four years of age. He was still only chest high in comparison to Scratch though, but a much closer size than previously. It would seem the kitten was just naturally small. “It’s actually a really fun place! Ever since I found out about it, it’s been one of my favorite worlds to visit when I’m bored.”
“I see…” Scratch took a few steps forward, being careful not to stumble over his oversized clothing. “I wasn’t really expecting to be a kid again… But you know thinking back on the reflection…”
“Yeah, adults aren’t allowed in Springtide.” Calex explained. “Or really anyone over four. You try to come in… And it adjusts you. Shame it’s a full moon tonight though.”
“What does the moon have to do with anything?” Scratch tilted his head.
“What age you turn into is based off the current moon phase. Because the moon is full, we regressed to age four, the highest possible age here. Basically, the more full the moon is the older you are when you come in. The less full, the younger. Come through on a new moon and you’re practically a newborn.” Calex grinned. “Since a mere two years off isn’t much of a change for me I was hoping to be a bit younger.”
“This place certainly has interesting rules.” Scratch looked around. “So you mentioned a treasure?”
“Right!” Calex help up his scroll. “This is an actual fey scribed map to one of the ancient temples in the fey woods! Those temples are always full of treasure… But… The scroll was made with Springtide magic, so looks like I couldn’t unravel it back in the normal world.”
“So it’ll open here!” Scratch eagerly moved behind Calex so he could look over his shoulder when it was revealed.
“Gotta be careful though. Faerie maps tend to be cursed. If anyone other than a faerie opens one they’ll suffer the full effect of said curse.” The kitten had a smug grin.
“Uhhhh, then why are you opening it?” Scratch didn’t get why the kitten didn’t seem more alarmed.
“Cause I -am- a faerie.” He replied with the satisfied tone of a child who had been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal a secret. “Well half faerie. So, I can open these no problem.” Calex pulled at the red string again. This time it offered no resistance. The scroll unrolled… And released a bright flash of light, and suddenly Calex was gone and the scroll lay on the grass.
“Calex!?” Scratch looked around. “What happened? Where are you!?” Had the kitten just been done in by the curse after all.
“Not so loud!” A much higher pitched version of Calex’s voice came from somewhere among the grass. As Scratch looked down he noticed the map was moving, or at least something underneath the map. A couple of seconds later, and it revealed itself. It was the orange kitten. However, he was now much, much smaller. Likely only about two inches in height total. That wasn’t the only change though. He had a pair of translucent red wings in the shape of a dragonfly’s sticking out of his back. He had also suddenly grown long human-like hair that went all the way down to his backside and his body down emitted a very feint orange glow.
“Whoa…” Scratch got down on his hands and knees to look at the tiny kitten. “What happened?”
“I guess halfies wasn’t enough.” Calex shrugged. “They needed a full faerie.” As he spoke, he plucked a long strand of hair from his own head. He then used it to tie the rest of his new human-like hair into a ponytail. “Honestly, the only weird part is the hair. I’m not used to having that outside human form. Still! Map is open!” The faerie kitten put his new wings to use as he hovered into the air and flew over down to it, grabbing it near its center and lifting it up. Continuing to hover, he held it with the map side facing Scratch at eye level.
“It looks like a trail through the woods.” Scratch studied the map.
“Bingo! The Fey Woods” Calex grinned. “See the trails twist and turn a lot in there, but as long as you have a map, the trail on the map stays the same. So now we can get to the temple.”
“Awesome!” Scratch stood up. He had been concerned for his new friend’s sudden change briefly… But it looked like Calex didn’t mind at all, so now he was just ready to go find this treasure. “Then let’s get going.”
“You going dressed like that?” Calex hovered up higher to get eye level again.
“Well I don’t have much of a choice…” Scratch muttered. “I didn’t know to bring a set of kid sized clothes with me.”
“Just ditch ‘em!” Calex chattered eagerly. “They just get in the way here.”
“Ditch them?” Scratch stared at Calex in disbelief. Although… With his track shirt so long now, it was more than enough to preserve his modesty. His shorts had already fallen off, and he supposed there was no harm in leaving the jacket behind too. He quickly slipped out of that and then stood in only the oversized shirt. “Alright ready to go.”
“I’d get rid of that too honestly.” Calex seemed to be actually concerned.
“The track shirt stays.” Scratch crossed his arms. “It’s practically a part of me.”
“Okay fine whatever.” Calex shrugged. “But don’t come crying to me if you trip on it and fall into a trap.”
“This coming from the person who just triggered a faerie curse?” Scratch stuck his tongue out.
“Hey! It’s a useful curse!” Calex acted insulted. “I can fly and stuff now! And being small in an old temple! Who knows how many cracks I can slip through or traps I can disable or just outright avoid like this! Plus… I bet it makes me a better magic user.”
“I didn’t’ know you could do magic.” The kitten kept revealing new surprises to Scratch.
“I really can’t.” Calex grinned. “But in Springtide anyone can. This world… It works sort of like a big game of make pretend. So… If I pretend I can cast magic, then I can! And… If I pretend being a faerie makes my magic more powerful it does!”
“And anyone can do that?” Scratch’s ears were perked up fully wanting to know more.
“Yup!” Calex beamed. “Well no! Sort of… See… Just as you can pretend to cast spells and make them real, you can pretend to build things and make those real. But you can only do one or the other.”
“Build what kinds of things?” Scratch’s tail was swishing eagerly. “Like… Can you just make things like toy swords? Or working ray guns? Cars? Space ships?”
“Yes to all of them.” Calex responded. “If you can imagine it, and you can imagine it working, then it works.”
“… I am going to make so many things.” Scratch’s face grew into a wide smile. “But… Know where we can get any supplies for me to build with?”
“Two places actually.” Calex held a paw to his chin as he thought. “There’s the Cardboard Jungle, which is well, full of cardboard. Obviously. I love that place. And there’s the Moonlit Junkyard, which just has a ton of random stuff but no cardboard so isn’t as fun.”
“Hmmmm, perhaps before we head to the forest we should stop by both of those places and I can try my paws at making a few things.” Scratch was excited to put this world’s logic to the test.
“Sure! It won’t take long!” Calex chimed. “And the two zones are right next to each other! Follow-“ He started to fly then stop.
“What’s wrong?” Scratch looked at him.
“Well… I am rather small… And while still pretty strong…” Calex looked down at the map. “This is really bulky. Do you think you could hang onto it for me for a bit?”
“Sure.” Scratch chuckled, took the map and the two set off.
The trips to the Cardboard Jungle and the Moonlit Junkyard were mostly uneventful. The only odd thing was how it was daylight in the jungle and nighttime in the junkyard at the same time. They had run into some interesting denizens in each place, both very eager to play. In the jungle, there had been small fist sized kittens called Mewls. In the junkyard, equally small wolves called werewoofs. In both cases, Calex kept the small critters entertained with games of chase, flying around and avoiding them while Scratch gathered materials. When they were ready, they headed to the entrance of the forest.
In addition to his track shirt, Scratch also had a large bag held over his shoulder by a single strap. It was messenger style, so that the bag was level with his hip and he could grab any of his new inventions with ease.
“Now we just follow the map.” Calex flew ahead slightly. “If we stay on course we won’t encounter any trouble before the temple.”
“Simple enough.” Scratch pulled the map from the bag and studied it. As they went on he noticed a large amount of the vegetation had berries, nuts and mushrooms growing on them. But, they were all kinds of odd colors and shapes, things he had never seen or heard of in nature. “Those safe to eat?”
“Yup!” Calex smiled eagerly. “Though they usually have some side effects.”
“What kind of effects?” Scratch narrowed his eyes at the kitten.
“The usual. Shrinking, age changes, changing into other animals, sometimes on four legs sometimes on two, becoming part or all the way dragon. No way to know which till you try one.”
“Huh…” It was almost worth trying some of them. Scratch had figured out a few things about this world on his own without needing Calex to explain. For starters, he knew when he left he’d go back to his adult age. After all, the kitten had been through at least three times and was clearly different ages on each side. He also suspected any transformation would be relatively easy to reverse if he grew tired of it. If he could build anything, he could just make a gun out of cardboard that turned people into cats! Bam! Instant reset button for him! So… The possibilities were interesting. And watching Calex fly around, he was a little envious of the little guy’s wings. If he got one that made him part dragon, that’d be a lot of fun. But… There was one thing he did want to avoid.
Being shrunk. Aside from the fact that he would be too small to use any of the new gadgets he had built, there’d be no possible way to take his track shirt with him, and that was unacceptable. It was practically his identity!
As Calex had foretold, the two ran into no trouble in the forest. Following the map they avoided all obstacles, and soon they came to the temple in question. It was a large crumbling structure made from stone with a large staircase going up to a heavy looking door. Two stone lions sat on either side of the staircase, poised as if acting as guardians.
“Treasure is inside.” Calex chattered. “All we have to do now is get through that door, bypass all the traps, defeat any Phantoms we encounter, and the treasure is ours.”
“Got it!” Scratch beamed as he walked towards the stairs. “Wait, what are Phantoms?” As he spoke, the two stone lions suddenly began to shift and move. Their eyes lit up, and they stepped forward off their pedestals and let out loud roars. “Ah. Guessing those?”
“Yup!” Calex responded. “They’re basically bad guys! Just kind of monsters with no minds that exist just to guard treasures. They can look like just about anything depending what zone you’re in… But be careful! They can’t physically hurt you, but they can disable you.”
“What does that mean?” Scratch jumped backwards just in time as one of the lions pounced for him. He reached into his bag and fished around for one of his new gadgets. After a few moments he found it and pulled it out. It was a ridiculously large sword, that would have been taller than even Scratch’s adult form. The sword was made of a combination of wood and wires with strange symbols drawn in crayon all over it. He gripped it with two hands and took up a defensive position.
“Well….” Calex thought for a moment. “I screwed up and lost a fight to a Phantom a few months back… And I sort of got turned into a kobold egg for my troubles.”
“An egg!?” That alarmed Scratch.
“I got better!” Calex responded. “Nothing in this world lasts forever.” As he spoke he flew in circles around the other lion, putting his small size to his advantage. He flew directly beneath the beast’s belly before throwing forth bright beams of red light from both hands striking at it. The lion let out a roar of pain, before rolling over trying to squash the small faerie. Calex was hit by its body, but thankfully only sent flying away into the grass rather than being crushed.
Scratch was fighting his own Phantom as best as he could. The lion slashed at him with stone claws as he blocked it with his sword. It was strange, even made out of wood the sword should have been much heavier. Yet he had no trouble wielding it at all. He pushed forward, shoving the lion back, but rather than deal any lasting damage it only forced the lion spring back.
“You know… I think I noticed a weakness.” Scratch grinned.
“Yeah… what is that?” Calex dizzily flew out of the grass.
“Neither one of them can fly… If we took to the air…” Scratch reached into his bag again, and this time pulled out what appeared to be a backpack made out of cardboard. He quickly slung it over each shoulder, being careful not to dislodge his other bag of gadgets. Then, he moved his thumb over one of the straps where he had draw a red button in crayon. A loud beep came from the cardboard pack, and then Scratch shot up into the air high above the lions.
“Ohhhh!” Calex flew up to meet Scratch. “You build a jetpack?”
“Sort of. Was worried about a jetpack burning my shirt.” Scratch grinned cheekily, happy to be the one to get to explain things to the other kitten for once. “This is sort of… Gravity Force Pack! It creates its own gravitational field, and redirects it at will, allowing me to freely propel myself in any direction. I can even pick up speed by changing the gravity in the right direction to make me ‘fall’ in the direction I want to go. It’s less precise than actual flight, but gets the job done.”
“That is so cool.” Calex paused. “But not sure it’s scientifically sound.”
“But I can pretend it is.” Scratch gave Calex a knowing look.
“You caught on to this place’s rules fast!” Calex began blasting bolts of lightning down at the stone lions. “But I can’t help but wonder… How do you plan to fight them up here with a sword? You got a gun in that bag?”
“No but…” Scratch swung his sword through the air. As he did, all the strange markings on the side opened up into slits. Plastic kunais came flying out of the slots raining pointy doom down upon the lions.
“Did… Did you build a sword that shoots kunais!?” Calex’s eyes were wide.
“I mean, I imagined it might work.” Scratch was having fun. Though, it almost felt unfair. Up here, the two were basically invincible. There was nothing the Phantoms could do to reach them as they both showered the two stone Phantoms with magic and kunais. After a few seconds of this, one of the lions cracked up, and then fell apart.
“Looks like one left.” Scratch prepared for another volley.
“GROOOOAAAAWR!” The lion let out a louder roar than normal, and then its back and only its back began to crack. Suddenly, a pair of stone wings emerged from it, and the stone lion took to the air.
“Oh how is that fair!?” Scratch quickly retreated to avoid the lion’s charge.
“It’s one of those duo boss fights.” Calex shouted. “If you defeat one, the other gets way stronger. Supposed to take them down at the same time.” He then paused. “That might be my bad… I don’t think lightning magic does that much damage to stone… So the one you were hitting with kunais was taking way more damage.”
“And so killing the other one made me its main target!?” The lion was not willing to leave Scratch alone. It continued after him, snarling, swiping with his claws, biting with his teeth. Scratch did his best to defend himself, but he was stuck using his sword just to defend against the blows. They were coming so fast he couldn’t get a hit in.
“Hey you big dumb jerk! Look at me!” Calex flew to the rescue, and this time had enough sense to change up what type of magic he used. “If lightning won’t work… Then how about good ol’ fashioned blowing stuff up!” Calex held his hands together above his head and began to chant. “Darkness beyond twilight. Crimson beyond blood that flows. Buried in the stream of time is wear your power grows.”
“Wait… Those words.” Scratch’s ears stood up. “I think I’ve heard them before…” His eyes went wide as he realized he had in fact heard the same words in a TV show. “Wait that’s not going to actually work is it!? Like, that would be ridiculous!” But if this was all based on what they could pretend…
“I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand before the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hand.” Calex was unable to respond as he was continuing the chant. Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess…”
“This is gonna suck.” Scratch deactivated his Gravity Force Pack and let himself fall to Earth. It was going to hurt a lot less than what he thought was about to be unleashed.
“DRAGON SLAAAAAAAAAAAVE!” Calex shouted as he brought his hands down, now glowing with a bright yellow light. He pointed the light at the lion, as a massive beam shot out. The lion turned its head just in time to notice what it considered the insignificant weaker opponent… It was at that point the beam made contact.
And a spherical shaped explosion the size of a football field appeared in the sky.
Scratch had made the right decision turning off his pack, crashing to the ground he was out of range of the explosion. However, instead of being seriously hurt in any way, he just felt a dull thud. He was completely unharmed. Calex meanwhile had been blown back by the shockwave of his own attack and landed in the grass near Scratch.
“Bit of a dated reference, don’t you think?” Scratch sat up and rubbed the back of his head.
“Maybe but it’s a good one.” The kitten smiled. “And I’ve always wanted to do that. Ohhhh, next time I’m gonna try some old video game based ones… I know this really cool chant for a lightning spell and-“
“So um…” Scratch interrupted Calex as he looked down at the tinier cat, seeing him also unharmed. “Can’t help but notice… Neither one of us even have so much as a bruise on us. I felt like that was kind of life threatening danger, or at least should have broken a bone.”
“You can’t physically get hurt in Springtide.” Calex stood up and brushed himself off. “That’s why so many Phantoms have ways to transform us to disable us. None of their attacks can actually hurt us, just stun us long enough to get their other effects in.”
“So… You threw off a magical nuke at something in melee with me… But you knew it couldn’t hurt me.” Scratch took a moment to process that. “Okay, that makes me a lot less angry at you than I was going to be. But… I think these two are beat now.”
“Wait for it.” Calex flew up and landed on Scratch’s shoulder. About five seconds later, the giant stone door to the temple opened. “Bam!”
“So beating the Phantoms unlocked the door?” Scratch started up the stairs. “Just like a video game.”
“Pretty much.” Calex stretched out, enjoying the moment of rest. “And since we had two pretty tough Phantoms outside, probably won’t have to deal with anymore inside. Just the traps.”
“So what kind of traps should we expect?” Scratch entered the doorway, it led into a long tunnel lit by torches. At the end of the tunnel was a pedestal with a large treasure chest on top of it. However, between them and the tunnel was a floor made up of several panels, each with different symbols on them. They appeared to be stars… And some of the panels looked like they were in an order so that the stars from the combined panels formed constellations. Meanwhile, there were small slots in the walls just big enough for darts to come out, more narrow slots about the width of a spear on the center of each panel, and what looked like some kind of trap door on the ceiling. “Ah.”
“Ok, it’s obviously a puzzle.” Calex studied the panels. “But… Star constellations. I know the names, but I’m not good at picking out the shapes.”
“And doesn’t tell us which ones to hit in order.” Scratch scratched his chin. “Maybe it’s based off the zodiac? So it starts with Aries… Then Taurus. Pretty sure Gemini is next.”
“Yup I knew that one! That one is mine!” Calex beamed. “But a thought occurs to me. Why don’t we just cheat?”
“Cheat? How?” Scratch asked.
“Well, from what we can see, stepping on the wrong panel activates a trap annnnnd.” The fairy kitten quickly leaped from Scratch’s shoulder and flew all the way down the hallway to the treasure chest and sat on it. He waited a moment, then flew back. “If we never touch a panel though, never have to worry about traps.”
“Hmmmm.” Scratch considered it. He could fly too with his gravity pack… But… The roof of this room was pretty low. It’d be hard to avoid accidentally hitting any tiles along the way. The pack just wasn’t precise enough. “Don’t think that’s going to work. There’s not enough room in here for me to fly.”
“There could be.” The kitten faerie smiled. “I could cast a spell to get you across.”
“Like teleportation?” Scratch suggested.
“Nah, I’m not too familiar with that and while I can probably do one I’d bet money that kind of cheating does have a failsafe put to stop it.” The faerie kitten grinned. “I just have to carry you across.”
“I’m a bit too big for-“ Scratch paused as he realized what kind of spell Calex was getting at. He clutched at his track shirt defensively.
“Remember, this is Springtide, anything can be reversed.” Calex floated over and tried to pat Scratch atop the head. It felt more like a tiny poke.
“… Ugh.” Scratch crossed his arms. “Alright, get it over with. Better than figuring out this puzzle. Don’t even know if the zodiac is the right idea or not.”
“Right!” Calex flapped back from Scratch about a foot then held out his hands pointing at him. “Okay… Something small, easy enough for me to carry… Got it!” A mass of red and orange glitter gathered in Calex’s paws, he then threw the glitter out as it landed atop Scratch. A moment later, the cat started to shrink.
He disappeared beneath his shirt, but he could feel the changes happening to him. His ears were getting rounder, and his tail much thinner. His whiskers actually got longer, and his snout longer. And he got so much smaller. After the changes were finished, he crawled out from beneath the shirt. His fur pattern and colors had stayed the same, but he was now clearly a mouse, though one that still had a fur covered tail and paws. He was at least still bipedal. However, he paused and looked back at his shirt and his bag of gadgets. He was uncomfortable like this. His tail kept twitching nervously as he touched the sleeve of his now way too large shirt.
“Awwww man.” Calex was picking up on his new friend’s frustrations. “Okay… Tell you what… I think I can do something about this if I focus very, very hard.” Calex flew down and landed atop of Scratch’s discarded shirt. “But you have to promise me that you will never ever ever EVEEEEEEEEEEEEER tell anyone I did this or am capable of this. EVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER!”
“Uh… Got it…” Scratch wasn’t sure what was going on, but Calex’s attitude certainly made him pay attention.
“Now give me a sec… Never done this before.” Calex placed both his paws down against the track shirt. “And believe me when I say this is very hard for me to imagine. I might be literally breaking a universal law right now.” He closed his eyes as he tried to focus. A moment later his hand paws began to glow purple. The purple glow slowly spread to the track shirt, and gradually began to cover the entire thing. Once the entire garment was covered in light, it began to shrink. It shrunk down in size, the same way both Calex and Scratch had earlier, until it was small enough for Calex to hold it up in the air by the neck of it. Then the glow faded. Calex then took a few steps forward, offered the shirt to Scratch, and then fell face forward.
“Uh…” Scratch quickly put his track shirt back on. Now it was the perfect size for his mouse body. It no longer went down to his paws, but fit him as if it was made for this size instead. “Thank you but… Are you alright?”
“Just a bit… Woozy.” Calex slowly got back up. “I had to act against my own true nature to pull that off. That’s not an easy thing to do… Not for full or half faeries.” He took a few deep breaths. “I’m fine now. “But seriously. Never speak of this to anyone. If you do, I’ll never do this for you again if we have another of these adventures.”
“Well that assumes I need it resized again.” The mouse Scratch stuck his tongue out.
“I’m pretty sure you’re going to at least want it resized once when you go back to being a cat.” Calex giggled. But, he was back in a better mood having had a moment to recover. “Alright let’s go this.” He grabbed Scratch beneath each of his arms, lifted off and flew straight past the hallway till they were at the chest. He was still a bit smaller than the mouse, but at this scale the difference in mass was much less an issue.
“Okay… We skipped the puzzle but how do we open it?” Scratch asked as Calex sat him down on the pedestal.
“The traditional adventurer way. Raw force.” Calex pointed a finger at the lock on the chest, and a blast of lighting shot forth frying it. The chest sprung open.
“Crude but effective.” Scratch climbed up over the chest and looked inside then paused at the ‘treasure’ that was there. It was an entire treasure chest full of cupcakes… And somehow, every single one was freshly baked right out of the oven. He would have questioned how that was even possible, but he was learning to just roll with it by now. “This is the treasure?”
“Yeah isn’t it great!” Calex flew down into the chest.
“I was just… Expecting gold or gems… Scratch muttered.
“And what good are those?” Calex asked. “Which do you want right now… A shiny diamond that’s pretty to look at and good for nothing else, or a cupcake twice your own body mass filled with sweet sweet sugar.”
“… I’m going to go with the cupcake.” Scratch jumped down into the chest to gorge himself as well. “You know, this place is pretty neat. I wouldn’t mind having a few more adventures before going home.”
“There’s plenty of places to go!” Calex beamed. “We’ve got a knights and dragons land! Ninjas, pirates! A haunted house. A desert, snowy areas, all kinds of stuff here.”
“You know what, let’s hit each one at least once before I go home.” Scratch bit into a giant cupcake then paused. “Hey… Think you can shrink my gear like you did my clothes?”
“Doubtful.” Calex seemed to be genuinely unsure rather than trying to be difficult. “Magic and science… They don’t mix so well in Springtide.”
“That’s not real science though.” Scratch retorted.
“True.” Calex nodded. “But… You can combine the two but it becomes very unstable. There’s about a 50/50 chance that me attempting to shrink your gear would make it explode and transform us in a number of different ways. I mean, we could wind up electron sized dragon eggs. You’d really be better off rebuilding it all.”
“But I’m so small right now!” Scratch paused. “Actually… I can build anything from anything if I can picture it properly right?”
“Yup!” Calex nodded between bites.
“So I could build a small airship to help us get around this world with twigs and leaves.” Scratch rubbed his paws as he was starting to get ideas. “Or since transformations are so popular here, polymorph grenades out of acorns. I bet I could remake my sword with a good twig… And heeeey… What if instead of a gravity pack, I made myself some artificial wings out of leaves with a neural uplink in in the form of twigs tied to my wrist… Then I could fly just like you do…” It was clear he was getting lots of ideas.
“Yeah all of those will work.” Calex meanwhile was just busy eating his cupcake.
“You know what…” Scratch gave a wide grin. “Keep me as a mouse for a bit. I wanna try a few things before I go back to my normal self… And I think an airship is a pretty good way to see more of this world.” He bit into another cupcake as images of all the various things he wanted to build flowed through his mind.
One adventure had ended, and the two kids enjoyed their spoils. But both of them were already planning their next adventure.