Arialin looked at the small bottle with a doubt. As much as he wanted to trust, Raithea wasn’t making it easier. Ordering, not asking, though he had to admit that everything he was saying so far, was turning into his favor. The shadow inside him raged, urging him to not drink the potion, and as much as Arialin wanted to listen to her, there was a lot of obvious truth in his host’s words.
Arialin couldn’t hide forever if he wanted to achieve anything, if he wanted to live long enough. More evenly, hide in Raithea’s bedchambers, as safe as they were. He doubted Raithea would allow him, to add to it. He was sure that he would not give him to humans, but as long as he would hang over his host’s head, danger was immense.
It will hurt, do not drink it.
As long as it gives me more freedom, I am willing to take risks.
Raithea’s gaze wasn’t necessarily encouraging, but there was so much assured confidence in it, that Arialin closed his eyes… and swallowed all of the mixture in one take.
Raithea’s eyes seemed to widen, like he waited for that and that caused a pang panic in Arialin’s mind, but it was quickly overwhelmed by… a feeling.
Not exactly painful. It felt like he was dissolving in a thick mist, his sight became blurry and unfocused, his limbs lost connection with his body. He didn’t want to scream, but he definitely wanted to speak, but he couldn’t utter a word. It felt like his tongue plastered to his throat and choked him… but without loss of breath.
And his shadow…
First time in his short life, Arialin could feel her stupefaction and disconnection.
Do not go, he wanted to tell her, sensing her departure. Yes, many times he wanted her to go, he hated her so often and was scared of her. But in the end, he didn’t want her to go. He wanted to understand her better, not remove her from his life. If she disappeared… he would feel more lost than in the lonely sea, during a storm.
But the shadow still was there, hushed, silent, but observant and alert, in the dark corner of his mind, looking at his change with a dark stubbornness.
First thing he felt, when he returned from the mist, was that he has worse eyesight. He blinked a few times, but his crystal clean, elvin sight didn’t return.
“Humans have much weaker eyes” said Raithea, and pointed at a glass of water Arialin forgot to drink at night. It was cold now, cold like snow. “Drink water, to ease the change. It will take time to adjust, but humans somehow use them to see. It can’t be that difficult.”
Arialin took the water and drank fast, also to remove a strange acidic taste in his mouth. It helped.
“How… what do I look like?”
His voice was alien to him, rough and harsh, without melodic touch all elves had. It was brutally human.
He was not sure if he wanted to see his new face. If his voice sounded like that, how different he looked, how he changed, maybe forever.
What if he will stay human for all his remaining years.
Raithea seemed amused, and Arialin turned to the mirror. He had to face himself, no matter if he looked like a brutal war monster. But to his asonishment, he didn’t see a human there. Only his own slightly ragged and tired person, with same eyes, with same fear in them, with same doubt and courage, he just was finding in himself.
“Your look didn’t change, in reality” said Raithea, amusement ranged also in his tone, “You didn’t change your skin, it’s impossible to do so, your bone structure can’t be changed, as well as your blood or muscles position. You didn’t become human. You just happen to use a very powerful spell of illusion. You can still see yourself, as you really look like. And so do I. But others, be they humans or elves, will see Rog, a very unfortunate soldier, who was designed for the least desired person.”
Arialin stared at his perfectly normal reflection in the mirror.
“But… my voice… how did it…”
“Voice can be changed so easily. Even without a strong spell.”
“So, I will sound like that forever?” Arialin’s tone took on a much harsher note. Having this rough, cruel voice was least he would like. “And what about my sight? If I didn’t change, why do I look like a human?”
“Because magic takes as much as it gives” Raithea’s voice also harshened and the shadow inside Arialin moved restlessly, he could feel her under his skin, protesting. “We all pay a toll, to get the prize.”
Arialin had so many questions, but he understood all too well that Lord Rhuitaure won’t answer them now. He knew this secretive kind of person, who played with too many puppets and held too many secrets. They never were answering directly.
And all who he ever heard of, were power hungry humans, who would better kill him than help.
But strangely, that trait in an elvin person, was making him assured that whatever job needs to be done, will be done well.
“Who is this Rog? Who will I be?” he couldn’t stop himself from asking at least that.
“A guard,” Raithea simply said. “You need armor, you will get a new one from your captain. I never used a private guard, so there will be questions, but not as much as would be, if you became a maid or cook. Most questions will probably arise, why I want Rog, especially, guarding my person. Do not talk, when we appear in the watchtower. Look spellbound. I will take this ungrateful task on myself.”
Or he will put a spell, so you look like one.
Arialin wanted to ignore the shadow but decided to nod internally. Raithea seemed a person, who would not shy out from ultimate resources. One more question, though, needed to be asked.
“Where is this guard? Won’t he protest when I appear looking at him?”
“I am sure he has much better things to do now” Raithea’s voice darkened and lowered and Arialin could almost see an adult version of him, speaking it. It had such finality to it, that he decided to not push further and resign from all the questions he ever had.
He made him suffer, he made him weep, he made him scream, he made him seethe.
This time, Arialin completely ignored the shadow.
Maybe because he felt she had a lot of rights.