Our tales continue, as Aurum accepts an invitation to a very special event.
Meanwhile at the Lair of Dr. Callyco
“Roawr!” Dr. Callyco gave his best attempt at a roar. “Welcome back for another night of tales. We’re ready to give you more… And Dr. Cutie Pup is still a mouse with no clues as to who did it to him.”
“Squeak.” Dr. Cutie Pup was currently clinging to Dr. Callyco’s shoulders and seemed to have his own opinions on that matter.
“Perhaps this happened because we let ourselves get too comfortable with our routine. Sometimes when you get used to certain things you do them without questioning… And sometimes out of habit you wind up doing it when you shouldn’t have.” Dr. Callyco grinined. “Which brings us to tonight’s tale. A tiger named Aurum has gotten a little too comfortable with the antics of a certain friend. And so he walks willingly into a trap expecting the usual shenanigans. But, it turns out the trap was set by someone different, someone he didn’t even know. We present our second tale. The Tale of an Invitation to Mischief.”
Thirteen Tales 2020
The Tale of the Invitation to Mischief
It wasn’t every day that you got an invitation to a Halloween party being held in a spooky rundown mansion that had sat empty in the middle of the woods for decades. In fact, Aurum was pretty sure that was the type of thing that didn’t actually happen. Yet, as the white and gold tiger stared at the postcard that had arrived in his mailbox today that was exactly what was happening. Slowly Aurum read over the invitation again taking in everything that was said in it.
Congratulations! You have been invited to a truly exclusive event on Hallow’s Eve. I promise an absolutely magical experience that will change your entire life. I’ve gotten the rights to host this event at that old mansion in the middle of the woods. No one knows who actually owned it so getting the permit was easy. Just follow the forest trail from the park parking lot and you’ll find your way there. Doors open at sundown. Don’t wear a costume. Arrangements have already been made for you.
The card had no signature on it. The only other thing on the card was a picture of the old mansion on the back of it. The place looked ready to fall apart. It hardly appeared safe to host a party in. But then again, that was just how it appeared, if whoever planned this party had a permit then surely the place was up to code. And Aurrum had to admit that there probably wasn’t any place else that would have a better atmosphere for Halloween. He supposed he could go check it out. Arrive a little early, if everything looked legit go to the party, if something was off then leave and go home.
Besides, strange and unusual events were hardly unusual in Aurum’s life these days. Ever since he met a certain young feline all kinds of things had happened. Perhaps, that was who had sent the invitation. The advice not to wear a costume certainly held up to Aurum’s expectations of him. But, why was the letter addressed to ‘Resident’ and why did it have no signature? Aurum might have been constantly dragged into certain shenanigans, but the kitten had always been pretty upfront about what was going to happen even if none of what he said made sense until after everything was over.
“It’s got to be him.” Aurum couldn’t think of anyone else who sent it. Perhaps not using his name and leaving no signature was just an attempt to make the invitation seem spookier. Well, it made it more fishy than spooky, but the tiger would give points for trying. However, he still decided it’d be better to arrive early rather than right at sundown like the card advised.
Since he wasn’t supposed to wear a costume, Aurum dressed in his normal casual clothes. A simple tank top and jeans, with his usual favorite accessory of a small green scarf worn on his neck. He’d probably get scolded for coming to the party wearing any clothing at all. But Aurum didn’t have a reliable means of transportation and was going to walk through town and to the forest. As much as he enjoyed certain shenanigans and as much as he was used to losing his clothing as result of them, he was not about to walk through the center of town naked. At least not as an adult tiger.
He didn’t have much time if he wanted to be early. The invitation had arrived on Halloween. This meant that Aurum had both a long walk through down and a hike through the woods to cover before he arrived. It was already after two and he had a few miles to cover. There was no time to dawdle if he wanted to be their early.
The walk out to the woods was uneventful. He passed the usual stories and businesses along the way, each with their Halloween decorations on display. Aurum passed a few people also out for a walk and gave a polite greeting but nothing of importance happened.
And yet… Something felt off. Aurum felt like he was being watched the entire time. Every now and then he’d glance over his shoulder. He kept expecting to see a flash of orange or the hint of a tail as something scrambled to hide. For a brief moment he thought he saw something fuzzy light blue or gray atop one of the buildings. But as he stopped and watched the spot nothing appeared. Perhaps he was imagining things simply because he expected to get pounced upon any second now.
When Aurum arrived at the park that extended partially into the woods he noticed that the forest was strangely silent. It wasn’t night yet, he was surprised he couldn’t hear any birds or any buzzing of insects. He had good earing too. Most felines did. So it was very odd for everything to be so quiet. Perhaps, if people had been coming through to set up for the party the local wildlife had just been spooked and so vacated the areas close to the trail. That made sense.
As long as Aurum didn’t think about the fact that with his hearing he should have been able to hear random animals deep within the woods. But he was already here, and it was time to press on. The nature trail started near the parking lot. As long as he stayed on that heh should reach the mansion no trouble without getting lost. And so he set off. And once again the walk was uneventful.
Except he still couldn’t shake that feeling that someone was watching him. He glanced behind him again seeing nothing. He took two steps forward as if resuming his hike then spun around in place again to see if he could trick whoever was watching him into revealing themselves. Nothing.
It had to be a combination of his imagination and anticipation. Surer, there were plenty of places for someone to hide in the forest. But Aurum would have easily heard their footsteps were that so. The cracking of twigs, the small rustle of grass as it was stepped upon. They would have easily given away anyone that was actually there. And yet the only noise was from Aurum’s own footsteps. He had to be alone.
And yet he still couldn’t shake that sensation.
Eventually Aurum reached his destination. It was a tall three-story building constructed from stone and rotting wood. Well, Aurum hoped the wood wasn’t really rotting and the place was just decorated. He didn’t want to think about the possibility of the roof collapsing in on him. There was an old gate metal fence between Aurum and the mansion. At one point, this might have barred entry. However, nature had begun to encroach on the old house and the fence had several pieces that were broken, laying on the ground now covered by roots or vines. The gate itself still stood, though it now slanted to the right and it was stick partially open, rusted in place. There was just enough room for Aurum to walk through the gateway without having to physically touch the gateway if he was careful.
He chose to instead approach the house from one of the segments of the gate that was laying flat on the ground. He wasn’t risking getting his clothes caught on the gate itself or walking through it triggering some magical effects. Both were equally likely traps if this was by who he thought it was. But now he could easily approach the house. He walked up a set of creaking wooden steps to a patio and the front doors. They were a large set of double doors, which at one point had likely looked impressive but being made of wood now appeared to be rotting. They were still pretty solid and looked heavy though. Aurum grabbed the door handle and tried to open one of the doors. It wouldn’t budge. He tried the other. It also wouldn’t move.
“You won’t stop me that easily.” Aurum thought for a moment. The door handles turned easily, so there was no lock on those, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t deadbolt lock. However, as he inspected the door he only saw a keyhole over the handle itself. It was still possible it could be bolted from the other side, but it seemed unlikely. And even if it had been it should be as in just as poor condition here as everything else.
Unless everything was just designed to look old and worn down and it was actually in perfect shape. Well, either way Aurum was getting through that door. He placed one paw against the left door as he grabbed the handle on the right door with both hands. He twisted it and pulled as hard as he could trying to get the door to open. There was a scraping noise, and the door might have moved half an inch, but he wasn’t able to get it open. It looked like the doors were stuck in place. Aurum wasn’t sure it was possible to open them at all. He moved over to a window and glanced inside to see if there was anyone in there. He saw a bunch off furniture with tarps thrown over them, but no people inside. Maybe following an unsigned post card to the middle of the woods was a bad idea. Aurum turned away from the house to head home.
As he did, he noticed the sun had started to set. That wasn’t too surprising. It had taken him several hours to walk here so he hadn’t had much time to check things out beyond what he did. It’d be dark soon, and even with good night vision wasn’t sure he wanted to be taking the trail at night.
But before he could leave there was a loud rumbling noise that came from the mansion. Aurum spun around and saw that the front doors were now wide open. There was no sign of anyone having opened them.
“The doors literally open at sunset.” Aurum rolled his eyes. They must have been mechanical doors like they had in some theme parks… Or mischief magic. One of the two. Curiosity overcoming caution Aurum walked back up the steps to the patio then stepped inside the mansioin.
No one else was here, there were no lights, and the entire place was covered in cobwebs. He found himself in a foyer with a somehow still functioning grandfather clock against the back wall and doorways on the left and right. However, the left doorway had completely collapsed and was just a mess of wood and stone. No getting through there.
There was one other thing of interest in the room. In the very center of the foyer on the ground was a small pumpkin shaped bucket. The type that kids would use when trick or treating.
“Alright, I get the idea.” Aurum picked up the bucket and headed through the right door. This had been the room he had seen through the window with all the furniture covered in tarps. Maybe it was some kind of formal living room or a parlor? What did you even do in a parlor? Aurum had no idea. However, there was once again an item on the floor. This time several items in fact.
Small, wrapped candy bars sat on the ground leading through the room, weaving around furniture and creating a trail that led into a hallway. The hallway itself was pretty barren, the wallpaper had started to come off and there wasn’t much to look at, other than the trail of candy that continued to a large room empty room with a piano in a corner and a staircase in the back. It was one of those staircase that started as one path then split into two separate paths as they curved upward onto a balcony above the room. The candy trail led up those stairs. Aurum continued to pick up the pieces and follow the trail.
He followed them into another hallway that ended in a spiral staircase. The candy trial went up the staircase to the third floor and Aurum found himself in a very dark room to where even he had trouble seeing. But, he could just make out the trail of candy. It looked like it came to an end at the very center of this room.
“Alright I’m here.” Aurum began to pick up the last few pieces. “So what’s this party going to actually be?” There was just one piece left, a large king-sized candy bar in the center of the room. Aurum stepped forward to grab it but as he did the floor beneath him suddenly lit up. A circle of purple formed along the floor around Aurum. And then more lines began to form strange shapes and symbols in the middle of the circle. Aurum wasn’t sure what was going on, but decided standing inside the circle was not the best idea right now. But when he tried to step out, he ran into an invisible wall. He felt all around inside the circle. He couldn’t get out!
Then, his clothing began to loosen on him. It was a familiar sensatioin. Strangely enough, it was almost calming as it meant he understood what was happening now and it made him less panicked. Now he just had to figure out if he was just getting smaller or younger. As his pants fell off he looked down at his body, noticing developed muscles fading away. He was getting younger. Except, suddenly his shirt fell right off around his shoulders. Having been regressed many times in the past Aurum had gotten pretty good at guessing his age just by looking over his body. He was still at least fourteen years old, but all of his clothing had fallen off. Which meant…
He was regressing and shrinking!
“Should have seen it coming.” He muttered as he squirmed his way to the top of his pile of clothes, now standing atop them naked. He continued to get smaller and smaller, until he was less than a foot tall in height total. And he of course kept getting younger. Soon he was a child again, and then a toddler, and then he fell back onto his bottom as he was an infant. Less than a year old.
But something was wrong. He didn’t stop getting younger. There was barely anything left of him to regress but he kept getting younger and as he did he felt himself growing exhausted. He leaned back against a hard surface that was most definitely not his clothing. Yet, it was strangely comfortable. Whatever the hard object was it was spreading to cover his entire body, enclosing around it. Before it closed completely he saw a shape approaching. And it most definitely was not kitten shaped. Then who had?
But he didn’t finish his thoughts as he fell into blissful sleep. And soon there was a tiny silver egg only slightly bigger than a chicken egg sitting atop Aurum’s now discarded clothing. The light from the magic circle faded, and the figure Aurum had seem approached and picked up the egg.
Eventually, Aurum woke up in darkness. He was confused. He could partially remember going into the mansion before waking up but things got hazy after that. Why was he in the dark?
“Roawr!” Aurum tried to call out to see if anyone was there. But no words came out. That was strange. He began pushing around on the walls surrounding him trying to find a door or something to get out of this dark place. Instead, the walls cracked apart and collapsed around him.
And for a moment Aurum was blinded as light flooded his world. Once his eyes adjusted, he looked down over himself noticing a distinct lack of tiger shape to his body. He was currently on his back, and looking down could see silver scales covering his entire body and a long tail that grew thinner near the end and tipped with a plate. He struggled to get off his back and climb out of what he had just broken out of. As he looked behind him he recognized the shape of half an eggshell that he had climbed out of.
“Rooooawr!” Aurum tried to talk again. But he couldn’t. And he couldn’t get up off all fours onto two legs either. It wasn’t a strength issue; his spine just didn’t curve the right way. He looked over his back noticing the wings coming out of them.
He was a dragon! And… As he looked at his surroundings, seeing pencils longer than his entire body and books which the spines were far taller than him he realized a very tiny dragon. He crept forward from the remains of his egg and walked around the corner of a book to get a better look at where he was. He was atop a desk in some type of study. The walls were lined with bookshelves and there were of course the books on the desk with him too. One of them was open. Aurum crawled atop the book. In it there was a picture of a magic circle… It was the same one he had stepped into before waking up here! He could remember! And… Now he was a baby dragon, maybe only six inches in length. Aurum tried to read over the page on what the circle was, but at his size it was hard to get a good view of the entire page. He saw words like trap, familiar and egg but couldn’t read the entire page.
But he knew what a familiar was. And the magic circle had definitely been trap. He didn’t need to read the entire page to put it all together. Someone had lured him to that circle, turned him into a tiny dragon egg and now that he was hatched intended to keep them as his familiar. And… Now he could just vaguely remember the shape of the person as they approached. It wasn’t who he thought it was. So who had done it? He heard footsteps approaching and then the door handle turned. It looked like he was about to find out.