Patreon reward for Naitlion. Cris discovers a portal to Springtide and a Winter Wonderland full of warm fluffy feelings.
Cris was more than a little confused at the moment. Just moments ago, he had been in an old antiques store. It was one he was fairly confident he had never seen before no matter how many times he had walked this route home. And he had never encountered an owner or anyone working in the store since entering. What he had found was a mirror in the back of the store. Old mirrors were probably a dime a dozen in a store like this, but there was the oddest thing about this one. The image reflected in it wasn’t Cris, or at least wasn’t him as he was now. It showed a much younger version of him, somewhere between three to four years of age tangled up in the adult clothing he was currently wearing. He had approached the mirror to examine this closer, touched the surface of it, found no resistance and fell right through.
A few seconds later he came rolling out of a hollow at the base of a great oak tree in a sunlit grassy field. It was difficult to move as his clothes were suddenly one gigantic entangling him and he just tripped over them landing in the grass which was thankfully surprisingly soft. After a few minutes of disorientation Cris sat up in the grass and looked down at himself. He was the young child version of himself he had seen in the mirror. He was barely older than toddler if even that. He knew there was something weird about the mirror! But he hadn’t expected it to fall into another world and turn into a little kid.
With some difficulty, Cris stood up. There was no possible way he was keeping all his clothes on. Not at his new age and size. He settled for just keeping his t-shirt. It was more than long enough to cover him even if he did risk tripping over it as he walked. With not too many other options he left the rest of his clothes laying in the grass as he looked around.
There was the tree hollow. If he went through that would he come out the mirror on the other side? And if so would he go back to his normal age? It seemed plausible, but he was unsure. Then he looked at the area around him. The meadow expanded further than he could see. It was pleasantly warm, and just something about it felt inviting. He bit his lip for a moment as he decided on what to do. The responsible thing would have been to try to find a way back to his own world and proper age.
But… A small thought occurred to him. Regardless of how or why it had happened. He was a little kid right now. And so why should it be on him to do the responsible thing? And he was curious about where he was. So, leaving behind everything but his shirt he picked a random direction and set off, hoping to learn more about this strange place he had encountered.
After about a half hour of walking Cris came about something strange. The warm grassy field ended and a snowy landscape began. There was no gradual change from the warm field to the cold landscape. It just changed instantly like two different picture sat directly next to each other. And odder yet, on the snowy side it appeared to be later in the day. Whereas on the grassy side it seemed to be midday.
A little nervously Cris stepped one foot across the threshold into the snow. When nothing terrible happened, he stepped across completely. Now he was standing in snow as deep as his ankles. In the distance he could make out a village as well as a forest. Those were only minor observations compared to something else Cris had noticed.
He wasn’t cold.
Cris was only wearing a t-shirt, and one that was far too large for him. By all accounts he should have been freezing to death. Instead, it wasn’t much different from standing in an air-conditioned room. He would question how it was possible, but it wasn’t any more impossible than him suddenly finding another universe or turning into a little kid.
Cris looked at the town and the forest trying to decide which to visit. The town looked more inviting. But, a small part of him that remembered he was an adult reminded himself that he wasn’t in the most presentable condition. What would people think of a little kid running around in nothing but an oversized t-shirt? That part of him was loudly overwritten by the building excitement that he really was in another world, and youthfulness was leading him to want to explore. The town was probably a good place to learn about where he had stumbled on but…
Cris was curious to how this world worked, what it was. He wanted to do some exploring, have an adventure. Then maybe go to the town when he had information. So, instead he headed in the direction of the forest. He tried to mentally keep in mind where the town was in comparison to him. But even if he got lost, he could always follow his own footprints through the snow.
Many of the trees were devoid of leaves due to the weather. Cris walked among them and paused as he noticed a stick laying on the ground. A few hours ago when he was an adult he wouldn’t have even stopped and noticed. But now that he was a kid again… And well, a stick could be anything! It could be a sword! A magic wand! Maybe even a dowsing rod! Wait, wasn’t a dowsing rod just a stick? And come to think of it so was a magic wand. But, getting into the spirit of his new youth Cris snatched the stick up.
It really wasn’t long enough to be a proper sword. He swung a few times in the air, and though it made satisfying whooshing noises he doubted it would make a good weapon if he ran into any monsters and-
Wait was that a possibility? Could he run into monsters here? Maybe he should have gone and checked out the town first.
“Shame it’s not a real magic wand or I could just teleport there.” Cris muttered as he waved the stick around in the air. Suddenly, there were sparks of blue light that erupted from the tip of the stick and the world turned bright white for a moment. Next thing Cris knew he was standing back in the middle of the town he had passed earlier.
Most of the buildings here were made of logs. It was like being at some kind of ski lodge resort. Except, everyone in the village was a kid. No one could be more than four years old. Also, for the most part they weren’t human. Usually, various types of animal human hybrids walking around carrying about their business. None of them even blinked an eye when Cris had suddenly appeared in the middle of the town square. It was as if such displays of magic were completely normal and unremarkable in every way.
Cris could only stare around him dumbfounded. Had he done that? He had talked about teleporting back to the town, waved the stick, and then he was here. It happened in an instant. Cris slowly raised the stick up to look at it. It was a normal stick. Nothing special about it. He pictured the section of the forest he had been, thought about teleporting there and waved the stick again. Once more, blue sparks were released, and the world turned white for a moment before he was standing right back where he had been just a couple minutes ago. He could still make out his old footprints.
“So… It’s a real magic wand.” The small part of Cris that remembered he was supposed to be an adult wanted to point out how ridiculous it was. Unfortunately for adult Cris, child Cris was far too excited by this new discovery. If he could teleport what other spells could he do? And… Come to think of it, he had been the only human in the town. No one had reacted to him, so he imagined humans couldn’t be unheard of… But they were all animal people. Were they from a different world than his? Or? He looked at the stick again. If he could use it to do magic it’d only make sense, he could cast more than one spell!
He thought about the various creatures he had seen, covered in fur, fluffy tails, big ears. They certainly fit in to this winter wonderland better than his human form did. Sure, he wasn’t cold. He didn’t understand why and had just accepted it as part of how this world worked. Still, he wouldn’t mind being a bit more fluffy like the other kids he had seen.
But what kind of animal? Something snow related maybe? If it worked he could always turn himself into something else later. He thought and remembered the other kids he had seen. He grinned as he remembered one with an exceptionally fluffy tail. A fox! An arctic fox would fit right into this scene!
Now how did he turn himself into one? Well, he had just been wishing he could teleport to town and wave the wand and that made it work. So, it couldn’t be that complicated.
“I am an arctic fox.” Cris spoke out loud as he held the stick above his head. Blue sparks erupted from it again but he suddenly lost his grip on the stick as his body began to change.
It wasn’t long before he had a coat of fluffy white fur over his entire body. And then the very fluffy tail grew out from the tip of his spine. He felt his ears reshape on the top of the head. However, what had caused him to drop the wand was that he lost his thumbs as his hands became paws. He suddenly lost his balance, tumbling over backwards and getting tangled up in his shirt.
“Yap.” Cris replied in annoyance. He then paused realizing the word he had meant to say had not come out. “Yip?” Cris struggled and freed himself from his shirt. Then he ran in a quick circle to get a look at himself. The shirt wasn’t going to really do him any good in his current shape. He had turned into an arctic fox just like he wanted! Except, he was now walking on all fours and couldn’t talk! He had turned into a normal fox instead of one of the humanoid ones he saw in the village.
Cris twitched his tail in annoyance. Not being able to talk was going to make it really hard to gather any information about where he was. He then spied the stick. Maybe if he carried it back to the village he could get someone to make him humanoid. He picked it up in his mouth then turned around. He could see the tracks he had left as a human. His senses were far more finely tuned and built for this environment. Following his own trail out of the woods and back to where he could see the village was easy!
Almost too easy honestly. He wouldn’t have minded had it been a little harder. But now he could see the village. He entered the village a second time, this time running in on all fours. He looked around looking for someone to get help from and spied a snowshoe rabbit kid drinking hot chocolate outside a small cafe. He quickly ran up to her.
“YAP!” Cris gave a shout as he dropped the stick.
“Huh?” The girl looked to Cris then looked at the stick. “Oh… I get it. You want to play fetch. Sure, I have some time.” She giggled and picked up the stick and threw it as far as she could.
“Yip.” Cris gave her an annoyed look. That wasn’t his intention at all. He turned to see where the stick had landed, ran full speed for it, picked it up and brought it back. “Yap.”
“Alright, alright again.” She said and tossed the stick a second time.
“Yip?” Cris gave her a look meant to ask ‘seriously?’ But what could be done. He had no choice but to fetch the stick a second time and bring it back.
“You know, I’ve never played fetch on the animal’s side before.” The rabbit girl muttered. “Is it fun? Maybe I should try it.” She spoke as she threw the stick again.
“YAP!” Cris had been anticipating she might do it again. And so he was running full speed while the stick was airborne. He leaped into the air and caught the stick in his mouth before it could ever hit the ground.
“Oh! Wow! Nice catch!” The girl put a paw over her mouth. “You’re quite good.”
“Yip!” Cris returned to the girl and dropped the stick again. He was rather proud of himself. And… Wait! Was he having fun!? He was supposed to be trying to fix this problem! Not playing games of fetch!
“So, do you want me to throw it again?” She asked. “I do wonder how many times you can chase it before it gets old.” She knelt down and scratched Cris behind the ears.
“Yip?” Cris tilted his head. And then he just flopped over onto his side in the snow. The sensation felt amazing. He laid there as the girl continued to scratch his ears and then began to pet him… And then he discovered the joys of belly rubs. No wonder so many dogs he had met in his life begged for attention till they got this treatment. He was in heaven.
This was nice. He could forget about gaining the ability to speak again for a little bit. After all the magic stick wasn’t going anywhere. Instead, he just rolled on the ground to continuously lean into wherever the rabbit girl was petting him. Every now and then he gave a happy little ‘yip’ to let her know that she was doing a good job.
“So… No collar on you.” She observed. “Meaning you’re not under a curse.”
“Yap?” Cris didn’t understand. But apparently curses were a thing here.
“None of the other areas in Springtide really do winter animals, guess that means you must have done this to yourself.” She looked thoughtful.
“Yap!” Cris nodded eagerly. She was getting it. He picked up the stick again.
“Well, you must really be having fun as a fox then.” She giggled. “I’ll have to try the feral animal thing sometime.” She paused as she noticed him holding the stick. “You want me to throw it again? Wouldn’t you rather do something else?” She took a sip of her cocoa and made a disgusted face. “Awww, it’s gone cold. I need to get a new one.” She shot a look down to Cris. “You want one?”
“Yip?” Did Cris want a hot chocolate? Of course he did! What kind of question was that! Who would turn down a free hot chocolate? He wagged his tail eagerly hoping that the obvious question was answered.
“Alright come on inside.” She opened the door to the cafe, and held it open so that Cris could follow her in.
Inside, it was again like a ski resort. Likely a restaurant people would eat at between hitting the slopes. Except… He didn’t see anyone doing much work. Instead, there was a deer boy standing behind the counter. Cris watched as another kid walked up, made an order, and the deer boy repeated it. They then made a show of exchanging money, except nothing was ever handed over. Unless invisible money was a thing they were just pretending.
Wait? Was invisible money a thing? At about this point all bets were off.
Whatever the answer, the boy turned around to where the kitchen was. There was no one in the kitchen. And yet, a freshly prepared tray of food was now sitting on the counter ready to be served. Cris’ newly refined senses could smell it from here. There was nothing fake about the food. But where had it come from?
The rabbit girl was next in line. And so Cris walked up next to her and jumped up against the counter pressing his forepaws against it so he could see over trying to figure out the mystery of what was going on.
“Two hot chocolates please.” The rabbit girl spoke. She then made a motion of reaching into her pocket, which considering she wasn’t wearing any clothing was impossible. Cris watched closely as she went through the motion of exchanging imaginary money with the person behind the counter. He was fairly certain there was no invisible money. Probably. It was just like they were kids playing at running a store. “Oh, and could you put one in a bowl for him?” She gestured towards Cris.
“Sure.” The deer turned around and on the counter behind him were two hot chocolate that had not existed a second ago. One was in a mug the other in a cup. “Thanks for the business.”
“Always.” Th rabbit girl took both and found a place to sit inside. She then sat the bowl of hot chocolate down on the ground where Cris could reach it.
“Yip!” Cris wagged his tail excitedly. It took him a few moments to figure out how to drink it. He couldn’t pick it up with his paws and pour it into his mouth. After a few seconds he felt like an idiot! He was a little fox kit! So, he should drink just as a fox would! He began to lap up the delicious warm beverage with his tongue but froze after finishing about half of it.
Was chocolate poisonous to foxes? He knew it was for dogs! Was he going to die now? Except… He felt fine. His stomach wasn’t even mildly upset. Did that mean foxes were fine with chocolate? Or in this world was everyone fine with chocolate. This was something he should look up on the internet later when he went back to his world. If he went back to his world.
Right now he wasn’t sure when he was going to stop being a fox kit. He was enjoying himself too much to try to get the girl to use the stick on him again now. Instead, he just returned to happily lapping up his hot chocolate and giving a yap of approval once it was finished.