Our tales continue, as this time Kit Roocoon has a bit of an adventure.
Meanwhile at the Lair of Dr. Callyco
“Squeak.” The mouse that was formerly a wolf pup gave an indigiant stare as he fond himself lifted up off the ground by his tail and then placed atop the kitten’s head.
“Don’t be like that.” Dr. Callyco said. “I gotta watch out for you, keep you close. Never know if whoever did this to you is going to come back for more.”
“Squeak.” The mouse rolled his eyes.
“You know, you’re a lot harder to play off of when all you say is squeak.” Dr. Callyco sighed. “So guess I have to introduce the guest myself. Kyle ‘Kit’ Roocoon is an apprentice mage in training. Like most members of the supernatural community Halloween is special for him. But, he won’t be engaged in his usual activities. Following rumors he discovers a strange place that his curiosity and thirst for adventure simply won’t let him leave alone. And so I bring you our third tale, the Tale of the Mirage Castle.”
Thirteen Tales 2020
The Tale of the Mirage Castle
Kyle, or Kit as he was known to most of his friends loved Halloween. Aside from the obvious reasons like free candy it the one day a year that Kit could wear his mage robes out in public without raising any questions. Aside from the fact that the silver and blue lined robes were comfortable, the thirteen-year-old roocooon was a mage in training and having the robes on just made things feel more official. Plus, they made it easy to conceal his wand should the opportunity for a little good-natured mischief present itself. He wouldn’t do anything mean, but Hallow’s Eve was a time of both treats and tricks.
Though right now going trick-or-treating was the furthest thing from his mind. He was skipping out this year. Probably. It depended on how long something took. But something more interesting had come up. Kit had heard rumors from some of the other students at school, rumors of an ancient castle that only appeared on Halloween night. If the rumors were to be believed it sat in the middle of the nearby woods and appears when the moonlight pierces through the trees and shines onto the castle grounds.
Kit wasn’t convinced that the castle real yet. But, how could be possibly resist the temptation like that? It was a shame that where the rumors ended. No one seemed to know who owned the castle or what purpose it served. But Kit thought it worth investigating if only to satisfy his own curiosity. And so instead of prowling the late-night streets he found himself traveling an old forest trail. It was already dark and hard to see, but this was no concern for Kit. Drawing his wand from his sleeve and muttering a few words and soon the tip of his wand glowed light a torch. Like this it was easy to navigate the trail without tripping on branches and getting lost. It took a bit of walking, and one side trip for an opportunity that couldn’t be wasted but soon he reached his destination, and the grin on Kit’s face couldn’t grow any wider.
The castle was real.
It was far from the biggest Kit had ever seen. But it was real. Crumbling walls surrounded a large central building which a single tower sticking out from the center. Of course, Kit hadn’t actually proven the rumors true yet. It was possible this old place had always been out here and had nothing to do with Halloween. He supposed he’d have to see if it was still here in the morning to confirm that. But there was an actual castle out here in the middle of the woods. There was no possible way he was heading back now without exploring this case. Losing out on Halloween candy was a small price to pay to get to explore a place like this.
Kit kept his wand lit up as he approached the castle. There were the remains of a drawbridge, but no actual moat, not even a ditch. Perhaps there had used to be one here long ago, or maybe if the castle actually did only appear on this night there could be a moat back wherever the castle spent the other 364 days of the year. But considering the state of disrepair the bridge was in Kit didn’t think he would trust crossing it and was thankful he could just walk around it. The front doors were wide open, their hinges rusted in place.
Kit lifted his wand up higher to get a view of the inside of the castle. It was in just as rough shape as the outside, but also fascinating. There were a series of cogs and gears hanging on the round, pipes running to the roof where they ran along the halls. The entire castle was some kind of massive machine! But for what purpose. Kit wasn’t sure, but he was going to try to find out. He followed the pipes through a long hallway and eventually came to a large chamber. A small staircase went up to a platform where a large chair covered in cloth was tipped over onto its side.
“Looks like I found the throne room.” Kit glanced around seeing if there was anything of interest. It seemed all the pipes flowed to this room and behind the throne. Then they just ended at the wall behind it. A wall that unlike the rest of the castle was completely bare of machinery. “I wonder…” Kit climbed the steps and passed the throne so he could study the bare wall behind it. “I’m surprised there’s not even a banner or something here.” The blank spot was suspicious, and while Kit didn’t want to jump to conclusions he was guessing secret passage. He held his wand closer to the wall, looking for a crack, a groove, anything that was out of place that reveal a hidden mechanism to open a door. He saw nothing. It was completely smooth, flawless. That was strange in and of itself considering the rest of the castle was falling apart. But then he noticed something truly strange.
There were no shadows. At least not anywhere on the wall. There was plenty of debris that should have cast a shadow in the wand from his light. Kit reached his free hand and held it in front of the wand. No shadow of his hand appeared on the wall.
“Okay, that’s strange…” Kit squinted and reached out a hand to touch the wall. His hand went right through it. “An illusion.” So the castle was both mechanical and magical in nature. That gave some credence to the rumor that it only appeared on Halloween. The young roocoon smirked, satisfied at having figured out the trick and walked straight through the wall. On the other side was a circular room with large spiral staircase going up the side of the walls. “Looks like I found the tower.”
Here Kit hesitated. He wanted to explore the castle more, but he was also very much aware of the poor shape the castle was in. If he wasn’t careful, one of those stone steps might give way beneath his paw and send him plummeting to his doom. He studied the stairs for a few minutes. There were a few steps that had chunks of stone missing but they were mostly intact. As Kit looked over the stairs he saw the pipes ran beneath the stairs heading higher up into the tower. He made his decision. He started up the stairs. The stairs groaned as Kit climbed them, not helping his confidence. But they held and soon the light of his wand reached the roof where there was an open doorway.
An open doorway that had light coming out of it.
“Something in this place still functions?” Kit was more curious than surprised. Then again, the light might be from another explorer. He quickened his climb up the stairs hurrying to get to the door. “Hey, someone up there?” Kit called out.
“Gah!” Kit’s voice had surprised someone. Someone who thought they were completely alone and so let out a small yelp of shock at suddenly hearing a voice. Kit almost got a view of who it was. A lean figure, but the other person stumbled backwards in their surprise backing into the wall where a large lever was. The figure bumped into the lever and nearly fell backwards onto it. Their weight was enough to pull it as there was a loud clanking noise.
Then the stairs beneath Kit’s feet were gone. Replaced by a slick ramp, the roocoon found himself suddenly flying down spiral stairs before he had any time to act. At the bottom of the stairs a trap door slid open revealing a basement. Kit slid right down into the basement. The ramp came to an abrupt stop as he found himself flying through the air before landing in some kind of pit. Kit lost his grip on his wand and the light went out. As the trap door slowly slid shut he was left completely in the dark unable to make out any of his surroundings.
“Great.” Kit muttered. He wondered if whoever that was had done that on purpose and how mad he should be. Right now though he needed to figure out where he was and find a way out of this pit. Something that would be a lot easier if he could see. He dropped down onto all fours and began to feel around looking for his wand. It couldn’t have landed too far away from him.
The surface beneath him was uneven and seemed to be made strange metals. As he moved around he realized he was atop a pile of something. He picked up one of the metal objects in his hand and held it. It was small, round, lightweight. A coin? Why coins? Was this a treasure vault? Who built a trap door that dropped into your treasure hoard? Granted, he couldn’t be 100% sure until he could see again. But the coins or whatever they were proved to be another annoyance. It was possible his wand was now buried beneath a pile of these coins. Kit was trying to keep a cool head. But this entire situation was making him burn up. Literally he felt like there a fire burning inside of him and-
And suddenly he could see. He was correct on his earlier assessment. He was indeed atop a pile of gold coins. He looked down at the one he still held in his hand. On one side was printed the image of the castle itself, on the other side the image of a flame.
Kit wasn’t sure what was happening yet but being able to see at least let him make out the area around him. This room like so many others had the wall covered in gears and cogs. However, they were moving now. In fact if he closed his eyes and listened he could hear machinery moving throughout the castle. It seemed the place had come to life. There was one door leading out of the room, it looked sturdy. It would figure out how to get past that as soon as he found his wand.
Now able to see he glanced around the room studying the different piles of coins. Then he saw it, small tip of wood sticking out from beneath the coins. Kit quickly retrieved his wand. Having that back made him feel more in control of the situation. Now, there was getting out of this room and back to the upper levels of the castle. He approached the door. It was half buried in coins and he had to throw them aside to make room to open it. But of course, it was locked. Well, these types of spells weren’t exactly his specialty, but he wasn’t going to spend the rest of the night down here. Plus, who knew what would happen if he was still in the castle if it did indeed vanish by morning. Would he go with it or be back in the woods? It was not something he intended to test. He pointed his wand at the door and shouted the name of a spell. Absolutely nothing happened. Was his wand broken? He tried lighting it up again. The tip lit up once more, though it no longer made a difference in what he could see. So the wand was fine. He brought the wand closer to the door then suddenly the light fizzled out.
“Some kind of magic dampening effect.” Kit looked at the door. He didn’t understand. Was this a treasury or a prison? However, with the door locked and magic out that only left brute force to make his way out through the door. Hopefully, the door was in just as terrible condition as the rest of this place and would come down easily. He cleared a path from the coins got a running start and then ran into the door shoulder first. It flew straight off its hinges and out into the hall. “Wait, I did that?” Kit looked down at his own hands in confusion and paused noticing something. He had claws. Well, he always had claws, but now he had sharp visible claws. There was still that sensation of a fire raging inside of him, but it was no longer painful. First the ability to see in the dark, then the strength to send the door flying and now the claws. His body was changing. It would hardly be the first time.
The doorway led to an underground tunnel where parts of it had collapsed in. There were wooden beams that had fallen into slanted positions or down onto the ground. Kit squirmed his way through them but came to a stop when he abruptly got stuck on a beam above his head. His head wasn’t touching it. Something attached to his head. He reached up and felt around. He had horns, and though he couldn’t see them he could feel the shape of the two curved horns extending from just above his forehead. And they were caught in the debris. With a grunt Kit carefully slid himself free.
The ability to see in the dark, enhanced strength, claws and now horns. Then that sensation of a flame raging inside of him. Kit had a pretty good guess at what he was turning into. He looked down at his arms and noticed that his brown fur had been replaced by copper colored scales. He looked over his back, and his once ring furred tail was now a thick scale covered tail that got thinner near the end and ended with a plate.
Kit continued to crawl through the tunnel he reached the end. Another locked door stood before him. One flick of his wand and he verified it was warded against magic just like the last one. With as much of the tunnel that was collapsed there was no way for him to get a running start to try to knock it down. And yet, the fire continued to build in him. This door however was made of wood and if Kit was right about his transformation he might have another option. He took a deep breath, trying to focus on that fire burning inside of him. Then he exhaled, and a torrent of flames erupted from his mouth and set the door aflame. In a few seconds the door fell apart and he was able to rush through. He noticed the still lit flames didn’t burnt him or even cause him discomfort as he passed through.
He could not say the same for his robes which he had to quickly pat out some flames before they were destroyed. It was a futile gesture though, as at this moment his robes and his shirt were torn to pieces as a pair of wings erupted form his back. Now he was left standing in just a pair of trousers. But there was no doubt about what he was now.
He was a dragon.
Though as of right now he was still humanoid, but he had no idea if that would change. He continued to the next room and found it to be a dead end at first. However, as he looked upward he noticed a groove in the ceiling. Another trap door. That was his trip up to the surface level. Kit flapped his new wings to take to the air and flew up to examine the door. Maybe he could push it open? He quickly held his wand in his mouth so as not to lose it and let go of the coin he had been carrying in his other hand At this exact moment the burning sensation inside his body ceased. He was still a dragon… But the fire was out, and he thought he might have stopped changing. Was it the coin that had been doing it? Come to think of it he had first been able to see in the dark when he picked one up. If he hadn’t let go of that he might have wound up losing his humanoid form completely and become a full dragon. While that might have been fun, hands were somewhat useful in his escape attempts rights now.
Kit flapped his wings as hard as he could and pushed against the ceiling with both paws. The door refused to budge. He got ready to try breathing fire again but froze when he heard more mechanical noises. The gears on the wall began to move in this room just as they had in the last. Suddenly, the door began to slide open on its own.
And as it did a glittering powder fell down from the trap door covering Kit. He sneezed as it landed on him, releasing a small flame in the process. Then he saw the room growing larger. No that wasn’t quite right. It was another sensation he was familiar with. He was getting younger, and so everything was starting to look larger.
Some of that new draconic strength faded as his muscles became less developed. He dropped in height drastically, and the last of his clothing, his trousers and underwear fell to the ground leaving him naked. This did at least allow him to see the scales weren’t limited to just his arms and tail and in fact covered his entire body. After a few seconds he was barely more than half the height he had been a few minutes ago. Kit had gone through enough age changes in his life, as well as caused a few to others that he was pretty good at estimating an age from a body’s proportions. He was around five years old. A kindergartener dragon.
Still, the way out was open. He flapped his wings and took off through the now open door. He flew up into a room full of giant turning gears. It was like being inside a giant clock. He looked around for an exit seeing none. There was the path he had come through, a stained-glass window with the same image of a flame that had been on the coin and a maze of gears. Perhaps if he navigated through the gears he’d find an exit. But… He saw a faster way out. This place was already in rough shape. No one was going to bother about a broken window.
Kit flew full speed through the window, trusting his new dragon scales to protect him from the glass as he rammed through at top speed. The window shattered and the former roocoon was greeted by the cold air of the night. He was outside the castle, having come out of window behind it.
And it looked like it was just in time. The sun was starting to rise. He turned to face the castle. He had wanted to explore it more. He hadn’t seen who or what was in the top room of that tower. But, right before his eyes the castle seemed to become less real as if it was a mirage. And then it vanished completely. So, the rumors about it only appearing on Halloween night were true. That was unfortunate… But it meant he could plan for another exploration attempt next year. Maybe he could even bring a few friends.
For now, he removed his wand from his mouth and held it above his head. Transmutation was his specialty. Changing back to his normal age and species would be trivial. Or so he thought. There was no reaction from the wand as he tried to use it on himself. He realized what was happening at once. This draconic form made him naturally resistant to magic. Maybe a powerful enough mage could break through that resistance, but it was more than an apprentice like him could handle. That meant he was going to be stuck like this for a while. And who knew if his teachers would be able to reverse it right away or if they’d need to study it first.
Still, there were far worse things to be than a dragon. And at five years old he was still physically capable enough to have fun. He flapped his wings and took to the air again. Flying was one of the best parts of a draconic form. He’d make much faster time heading home flying above the forest than walking the trail again. Still, wouldn’t his family be surprised to see him like this when he showed back up at the house.
Actually, they probably wouldn’t be surprised at all. Kit was pretty good at finding ways to get himself into these situations. If anything, he’d probably be given a hard time about him being the little brother now until matters got fixed. Well… He supposed he could always make his brother littler if he got too obnoxious.
Still, he had learned almost nothing about the castle or its purpose. It was hard to learn much about a place that existed for only one night. He wondered if the other person he had encountered had gotten out or if they had vanished with the castle into another world. So many questions. Were all the coins enchanted to cause dragon transformations? What was the purpose of those rooms being locked behind spell resistant doors? And why was the trap door filled with strange dust that made him younger. There was no way he was going to leave this alone. As he made the flight home, he was already beginning to plan his exploration attempt for next year’s Halloween.