Chapter Author: Adalore
Zenti held the invitation for her and Shale, scanning the address line time and time again. The cabby was having incredible issues finding the address. The map that Zenti checked time and time again against street names seemed correct. She strained her eyes through the stained windows, she wasn’t absolutely sure but the signage seemed to change as she looked away.
“I’m sorry folks, I could swear it was around here, I can’t charge you for driving in circles in good faith,” apologized the driver, glancing at Zenti and Shale in his rear view mirror.
Zenti was sure that the cabby had no idea what to make of her and Shale being slatepaws, taxonomically resistant even when she tried to describe herself. Physically they were short at 3ft’ish, long bodies with short limbs giving them a weasel type look, with strong tail and claws to climb. They had large heads for their size giving them jaw strength that feral creatures of equivalent size would be wary of, but given a sentence to describe themselves she would have to default to; weasley kobold. Shale’s fur was deep red with light beige tipping his ears, limbs, muzzle and belly, he had wonderful green eyes that Zenti just loved. Zenti’s train of thought automatically started to compare her own appearance, a fairly boring brown with darker mantles of fur on her shoulders, hips, limbs and mask, but she knew she had striking dichromatic eyes, right being purple and the left yellow.
“Don’t worry sir, I can’t let you walk away without full pay from this for the same reason,” asserted Shale, “Just drop us off, we’ll just find it on foot, if we can’t find it we’lll just get another cab, does that sound good Zenti?”
“I suppose as a last resort, I am still set on showing off these coatl costumes,” they were dressed in matching outfits, Shale in black and Zenti in white, feathery mantles that attached to their hands forming faux wings with a cluster of feathers attached to the tail. Shale had insisted to be accurate to the serpent inspiration to include the slats snakes have from head to tail on their belly.
“If you are sure,” the driver resigned.
“Don’t worry I’ll make sure to leave good feedback,” Shale replied while pulling out his cellphone.
The car slowed down and pulled to the curve as Shale confirmed the fare. Zenti followed Shale out of the car with a hop, between jumping from the cab and landing she felt a strange buildup of static that discharged as she landed, “Ah boo, someone is doing something with a wasteful amount of magic, at least it is far away this time,” Zenti sighed.
“Again? I still have swarm perception flashbacks from last year’s event,” Shale groaned.
“Are you folks alright?” called the driver.
“We are fine, I’ll keep track of it,” Zenti said with confidence, “we have a party to be at,” she reached out for Shale’s hand.
Shale took her hand with a small flourishing bow, “let us be off,” and they walked towards the nearest landmark to find the party, as the cabby drove off leaving them in a garish Halloween themed suburbia.
After about a half hour of comparing landmarks, street names that seemed far more accurate on foot, and a good dozen terrible puns from shale they stood in front of Nido’s property. They walked in together, “even for being early it doesn’t seem like much is happening,” Zenti mused.
They cleared the front gate and started up the path to the front door before waves of goosebumps down their backs, as the house swam shifting into an imposing castle, “aw,” Zenti muttered.
“Figures,” stated Shale.
Zenti turned her head towards the gate they just walked through and only dark woods, hedges and other obfuscations of space built from folded magic remained, “yep, and we can’t leave.”
“I was so set on a relatively normal Halloween.”
“I know right?”
The lawn stretch on violating at least some basic physical laws of space, the small path they approached on became a proper stone road flanked by sculptures formed of brush and stone fountains of classically halloween figures of nightmares and ghosts.
“And I have no signal, we really have no choice,” Shale said while rubbing his temples.
They approached carefully, Zenti already was sure Nido had summoned far more than he should have but if he was in control he would have came out to meet and brag at them unless he was going for thematic flair.
“Didn’t Nido ask you about summoning something for the party?” Shale asked; as they walked forward will’o’wisp like orbs appeared to illuminate the approach.
“He did ask me, but he said it would be a whimpy imp for illusions, not something strong enough warp space. I can only hope he used the template contracts that will keep anything stupid from happening.”
The doors creaked open with comedic ominousness as they approached letting them enter a large welcome area with countless coat racks for the guests. There wasn’t any gaudy decorations of black and orange, just a solid commitment to the gothic castle motif which meant whatever Nido summoned at least had taste.
The pair walked in quietly as they entered the great dining hall, countless Halloween and autumn foods lined the table but they knew better than to eat any food manifested in this hall. They made their way to the far end but paused to admire the great stained glass that stared down at the feast hall.
“Do you recognize any of the others on there?” Zenti asked Shale.
“No, but I see where they are,” Shale said with fur standing on end.
At the end of the table there was a great dragon shaped fountain that looked like one of Nido’s friends, light booze flowed from his hands and tail into great bowls. It matched the stained glass above the hall. Quickly comparing against the glass they found the rest of them all locked into their own individual stoney prison. “He bit off way more than he could chew didn’t he?” Zenti shuddered, “But where is Nido? There are so many different ways that he could have screwed it up.”
A great bellowing laugh filled the hall that rolled into a high pitched cackle, “Welcome my esteemed guests to my Halloween party, as you can see I Nido pulled all the stops, I’ll save the proper welcoming speech for when the bulk of the guests get here,but until then please refer to me as Kalido for the duration of the party.”
The crux stood at the top of the stairs doing his best bellowing coat tails trick, it had all of the visual traits of Nido but pulled into unworldly form. Zenti quickly sent the whole situation through a mental flow chart to deduce the situation, Nido must have screwed up the contract somehow, as she was pretty sure Nido and his friends were not into that petrification business. So if Nido is still active even if compromised what did he do? The only other situation that it could be was if that strange crux demon like state could have been the trigger, but it could just as easily be a symptom. “What are we talking to?”
“Oh tut, referring to me as a What? I am your host and the summoned help in all ways.”
“Oh please, don’t me that he contracted into becoming a composite being for the night!” Shale yelled.
“Then I won’t,” it smugly replied without a proper answer, “Oh aren't you two so smart with your complex terms, no wonder I have pre-party memories of consulting you Zenti.”
Zenti considered her options, he knew that she had very good magical experience thanks to Nido, but if this demon was worth anything he is already prepped.
“I see the worry in your eyes, I can’t have worried guests.” it said barely stifling a laugh, “I’ll help you shed that worry with a compliment, you two wear those costumes so well that they are practically a second skin,” the laugh he had leaked through and just became an overwhelming cackle as the magic gathered around him.
Zenti felt the magic flow out from the compromised party host, a sickly unworldly force, that seeped out of the wholly dominated home. Welling up into a wave of enchantment it crashed down on Zenti and Shale, making Zenti yip and yelp among the swirling maelstrom of malevolent power. The energy settled in a crackling mist around her feet unable to influence her immediately as with the storm surge of arcane her defences held.
Shale wasn’t able to defend himself from the wave of magic, his skill set was never the stand and take it type. Zenti spotted him halfway across the room on all four ready to spring in any direction. “Planer, where is your heart so I may tear it out.”
“Oh esteemed guest, Nido and my heart are one,” Kalido sneered throwing individual bolts directly at Shale, “oh blasted rogue” he groaned redoubling his efforts.
Shale weaved around each bolt scrambling in ways so unpredictable that the host roared with frustration as Shale practically flew throughout the room using his acrobatic skills to avoid each bolt of magic.
“Enough! No more missing!” Kalido shouted as he stomped filling the entire room with magic to grab Shale. Kalido dragged him back in front of Zenti leaving impressive grooves in the stonework from Shale’s claws.
Zenti felt panic building in her that she beat down with every fiber of her being, “Kalido, whatever designation you use, let us out,” she commanded with as much authority, an artificially fluffy from magic static slatepaw could.
“I am just doing my job as the generous host,” Kalido smirked, “as instructed I must make sure every guest has the best unique experience possible while here. Admittedly subjective but I am sure you two could be convinced with the right attitude,” he was practically grinning ear to ear before turning his attention to Shale, “won’t be long,” he said with pride.
The magic that still swirled around the slatepaws, now that Shale couldn’t run, had started to seep through his magic resistance, he shuddered as the magic settled in waves.
“Now I wasn’t employed to be creative,” Kalido began, “but the job satisfaction comes from a job well done.”
Shale yelped as static arced across his body as the costume merged with him, giving each previously black faux feather the living vibrancy of a crow. His fur gave way to feathers that left his mane grow into a great crown of feathers racing down his back. Vainly Shale batted his arms trying to shake off the arm feathers, but instead prompted strong primary feathers to grow as the arms gave up their bulky dexterous shape for functional wings.
“Zenti, can...can you do anything?” he pleaded.
Zenti could only watch in dismay, she had none of her tools to do anything, at best her wit might save them. Shale gritted his teeth as neck lengthened and his head shifted and became something between a viper and python, “Urrk” he sputtered which faded into a rolling hiss that brought his new forked tongue to taste the air, “Prftss ssulfer, anythiiingsss?” he pleaded trying to stay upright, flapping his awkward wings.
“I think we might be screwed,” Zenti said quietly.
“Ahhh, ssSsscrewed,” Shale said with disgust and the flick of the tongue, yet he lingered on that seemingly having forgotten what was happening. He stood there, neck still lengthening and wings gaining plumage just dumb founded to the world around him. “This,” he lingered on the s sound, “not bad,” he said proudly finishing a sentence. His eyes were wide and calm, “SsZzenti, be best coatl, be coatl with me.”
“Ohhshit,” Zenti yiped at the clear evidence of mental tampering in addition to the physical changes that left Shale awkwardly sitting with his fading legs still acting as a kickstand, yet looming with a foot of height over Zenti.
“Isssnot bad,” Shale hissed with another taste in the air, “Issnnot ShhiissS!” Shale stumbled falling forward to the ground as his legs finally gave in to the transformation. He caught himself with his wings like a wyvern. Zenti hopped back and watched his strong clawed paws fade into vestiges and finally into nothing. Shale pressed against the ground with his body completely abandoning the agile shape that she loved. His torso had succumebed, shucking weasel body form for a truly lithe serpentine shape. Settled on the ground Shale started to slither towards her, banking left and right in great turns struggling to catch the floor and move like a snake. Zenti continued to back off as Shale gained speed, eyes locked on her, he thinned out and took on a foot of length with every turn. Zenti felt the solid shape of the wall behind her ending her retreat.
Coiling in front of Zenti he finally lifted his head to Zenti’s face at three feet out of his now eighteen foot long and slender body. He was completely feather covered head to tail with great plumage on his head and tail. His body feathers were a deep reflective black, his mane a striking red. His underside from lower jaw to tail tip was covered slated scales like a snake, designed to grip the floor and help him slither.
“Isssnot ssso bad, be coatl,” he suggested staring at Zenti with green intense slitted eyes, “be coatl,” he repeated tasting the air off of Zenti’s nose.
Zenti felt Shale’s corrupted influence trying to brush on her, instead of letting down her defenses it welled an anger deep within her. “Issnot ssso bad, sszzenti, be sssnake,” he repeated bobbing his head in a bid to hypnotise her but was casually turned away by Zenti’s practice and experience as an abjurer.
This just earned Shale a glare, the type of glare that only lovers can give each other. This sent Shale into retreat by flapping his wings a good dozen feet away.
“Did… wrong?” Shale asked.
“No, but stay there.”
“Sssokay,” Shale surrendered coiling up into a heap of feathers with wings laying completely flat on his body that followed every curve of the coil, just watching her and Kalido. The stalemate lasted about 5 minutes before Kalido cut in, clearly bored at waiting.
“While time would most likely eventually get through your defenses that is on a time scale I don’t have, congratulations you won the prize that I wrote into the contract that I am under. Let us talk.”
“Alright Gestalt, what are your goals?” Zenti growled up at the crux.
“What a hurtful name,” he feigned, “I am here to provide the best Halloween party within my abilities as dictated by the contract I am bound under.”
Zenti sighed, “Nido screwed up the contract didn’t he?”
“I wouldn’t consider this a screw up, to each their own,” Kalido cackled.
“Let me see the contract then.”
“Knock yourself out,” he grinned handing over a freshly materialized contract. Zenti snatched the piece of paper, glaring over the contract she focused on the arcane bonds in the air, the rules of contract magic clearly marked this as the genuine article. Satisfied with that she began to read it line by line.
“Oh jeez, glad you lot were first, can’t have someone that actually reads contracts just loose in here,” Kalido heckled.
“Hush you,” Zenti growled as she skimmed for problems finding the, not even a loophole, loophole that let the gestalt happen, she let out a frustrated howl as she incinerated the paper in front of her, “No, he said, I don’t need help proof reading it, he said, you’re the guest not staff I have this, he said,” she shouted, “Nido you idiot,” she seethed and glared at the crux.
“Oh, I am smarter now,” Kalido said while fluttering his eyes, “at least tonight I am clearly in more control,” he bragged pulling the ashes of the contract back together before poofing it away.
“But now on to the prize, that was listed as something within your ability on the contract,” Zenti started, “you are not going to let us go, even on terms of non-interference,” Kalido nodded. “Then we can find a compromise,” Zenti finished, still feeling the magic trying to worm through her defenses. “What was your intent of this transformation,” he began to answer, “in full contract speech.”
This merited a groan from Kalido, Zenti knew it wais because she was taking wiggle room away, “Okay okay, as you read in the contract I have the ability to assign judges, and maintain that intent for the night. I was going to assign that role to you and Shale over there,” he gestured at the black feathered coatl with the red mane who had, until a short while ago been her husband.
“Important job,” Shale peeped from his pile of coils.
Zenti sighs, she knew it was an overt losing situation the best bet she had was to make sure it couldn’t cascade to being worse for them, “Alright Kalido, in light of the constraints of the contract we should be able to come to a compromise, what is necessary for the role of a judge.”
Kalido kept the contract speech going, “The role of judge as I intend requires integration with the local sphere of magic I have built here,” he said with certainty.
“Assuming end of Halloween restoration I will submit to this on these conditions : Shale and I are to not to be affected by any fate that would cause long lasting mental stress,” Kalido nods, “and that Shale is to be restore to the same level mental acuity as me.”
“And these are your terms?”
“With one addition, at no point shall the coatl form be altered by you into an inanimate form,be it physical or caged for the duration of the party” Zenti quickly added on.
Kalido pondered it for a moment, “I accept them, I must say you have clear practice on this, but I would suggest working on tenses.”
Zenti felt the magic of the terms undo her defenses, “I typically write it out ahead of time, borrow eyes of other and give it a couple days or so to read it over with fresh eyes.”
“Alas,” Zenti feigned dismay, she was bested in a situation while at an extreme disadvantage. She didn’t see the hole in temporal tense but at least as far as the party is concerned she and Shale were not going to end up decor.
Shale shot to attention as the veil of influence was pulled off of him, “SSzzenti!” Shale spat out, “temporal, you didn’t set an indefinite time for us to stay smart!.”
Zenti as the magic settled in her she shivered, “Oh, yeah that is something fairly important.” Zenti considered the phrasing with the now very clear error, “still fairly good otherwise, not that I’ll be able reflect on it.”
“Less so because of dumbing down, more that you’ll be focused on your task,” Kalido supplied, “dim witted judges can’t work after all.”
“Bring it on then, let the night begin.”
“Good, good,” Kalido tightened the magic on Zenti flooding her system.
The magic consumed her by the terms of submission of the sub contract, fusing her costume immediately to her. Knowing what was going to happen she settled down on her forepaws that had already shifted completely into great white wings. She felt like she was being pulled to by unseen hands as her body took on the same characteristics as Shale, feathers consumed her by crawling up her neck finally crowning the transformation with the plumage on her now very snake like head. Zenti attempted to blink but couldn’t, did snakes even have eyelids? It felt like new eyes had opened on her snout that let her peer directly into the world of magic auras and personality but also far more mundanely the thermal radiation of the area.
She looked at Kalido with this new perception seeing the strange image of a possessed body with the original soul of Nido riding backseat, squirming. She tasted the air that was thick with unworldly sulfur she couldn’t sense before, “Thiss, iss very weird,” she choked out past her strangely loose jaw.
“Ssso, how are we sssuppose to know how to do our tasksss?” Zenti asked Kalido. She could see the squirming souls within the inanimate shapes which was worrisome to perceive.
“Oh it will just come to you,” the gestalt smirked at her, “your mind is a bit more,” he paused, “solid than your mate over there.”
Shale looked spaced out before snapping to attention, “Sszenti coatl! Best coatl!” he hissed excitedly while uncoiling in anticipation.
Before Zenti could reply the magic finally breached her ego, leaving her stunned. All of her magical perception exploded into overbearing light without meaning or substance. Slowly the over stimulus faded, she was Zenti, He was Shale and that...thing, Kalido was her master? It felt like a fog was weighing down most of her thoughts, just not the ones related to the party. There wasn’t a better term for when her thoughts wonders towards it. Slowly her perceptions widened making her aware of the other souls weaved into the party as other actors and the unfortunate souls trapped as decor to Kalido’s plans. They exist to let her and Shale judge the guests, as planned by master Kalido. This certainty of purpose felt artificial but she was swept away by it.
“SssZzenti…” she muttered, “judge guestsss?” with a flick of the tongue. She shuddered as every vector, every method, to test people’s mettle flowed into her awareness. “But...tessst for what, master Kalido?”
“Hmm,” he contemplated, “I guess that wasn’t clearly defined. I suppose you two will transform and judge the quality and type of transformation that is the best match for their personality, location, and of course the shape itself.”
“Tsss all?” Zenti asked.
“Have fun with it,” he said with an ear to ear smirk.
Zenti felt a contagious excitement flow through her from master Kalido. On the edges her awareness she felt the same excitement well up in Shale. “Yess, yess!” the two hissed with excitement.
The possibilities, the fun she and Shale were going to have just swam through her mind. Tonight was going to be amazing. She felt the first wave of guests begin to arrive and be interwoven into party’s energy, they had a lot to work with, and a lot of planning to do.
“ssZenti feel better now?” Shale asked.
“Feel better,” she replied happily, “let usss go, much planning musst be done.”
“SsZenti best coatl,” Shale gushed, slithering towards her.
“Tss not true, Sshale best coatl.” She nudged him.
“No, ssZenti iss.”
“Sshale is best coatl,” she hissed back firmly..
“Both besst?” Shale offered.
Excited with the concept of both of them being the best coatl Zenti nuzzled Shale, “yess.”
The green eyed black coatl led the way for the now yellow and purpled eyed white coatl. As they slithered away they gained mastery over their shapes, and soon mastery over the shapes of the guests, but first they must observe and learn about the guests to change them with a thematic flair, it was more fun that way.
Welcome friends Adalore and I would like to invite you to join us for Halloween this year, come, the invitations have been sent out. The RSVPs have been received, it's time we talked about... the Terms of Service.
This chapter was written by This chapter was written by Adalore