A new character. This is the end of the teaser. The first nine chapters are now released. More will follow. I intended to do a bi-weekly release. -Bladed Pen
She awoke with a start. Agony flooded to her senses. She let a groaning keen of pain. She willed the pain to cease, she only needed to know once. The darkness was overwhelming, blanketing her in darkness. She strained and focused her eyes trying to pierce the unfathomable blackness. She shaped them, changed them to become as sharp as possible, picking up the barest pin of light. It was still pitch black. No light existed where she lay.
She willed her flesh to change and flow, her current formed melted into fleshy slime.
Her eyes dissolved, the pits of her skull closing. New organs shaped and changed. Her sensitivity to touch was amplified. She felt the trembling microns of movement. Others were nearby. Or beneath. Her sense of smell amplified, the scent of blood, her blood, reached her nose. Her tongue changed, tasting the air, feeling any change in the current. The air was not stale, implying a way out. Where her eyes used to be changed into pitted vents, sensing any heat nearby. All was cold and black, apart for her lone hand she held in front of her. She tried to feel her legs, but they were gone, as was her lower torso.
To call it a wound was an overstatement. Her lower torso knit back together, leaving just a slithering tail. She called out, called to her very being, willing her entirety to return. To heed the call of their matron. Every cell heard her call, and they all obeyed. The blood and viscera that splattered against the stalagmites formed and coalesced into fleshy slime. It pooled around her as she absorbed it back into her being. She felt whole again. This form would not work underground and needed to change. She began to alter and change her shape. She grew bristling hair all over her body. The long sensitive hairs could feel the slightest of movements. She grew whiskers wider than her body, changed her head to be short and thin. Sensitive ears grew as radar dishes. Her size shrank to be half her original size. She stood on four short limbs, meant for digging.
How she could suddenly store all of that mass was a mystery. Her very being was a mystery. She was not human by any means. She was a monster.
Her memory had slipped into darkness. She knew she was not like this originally.
What was I? She thought as she prowled along the floor, feeling her way around.
She spiraled out, her sensitive hairs brushing up against solid walls and stalagmites. She found an opening and squeezed through. As long as her whiskers could fit, she could as well. She fell, plopping and rolling along a sharp depression. She stayed still for a moment, collecting her bearings that were now shaken. She shook herself and stood, listening. The vent like eyes changed to feline eyes, checking for any pinprick of light. She saw in the distance a violet hue. Just a slight amount of light ahead. She stalked along, silent and cautious. She remembered fighting. Pain and agony.
She couldn’t recall losing anything specific. Her instincts told her it was bad and she should be cautious. She listened to it like a dear friend. As she stalked to the light, she could now see the crevice it glowed out of. She tried to pass through, but her whiskers told her it was impossible. She gave up her form, reverting to a mound of gelatinous fleshy slime. She passed through easily, reverting back to her hybrid foxcatmole self. There she spotted it. A mushroom, glowing serenely by itself. She stalked in, curious. A bit of pebble flaked along the ground, causing the mushroom to turn, it’s root worked it around. It stared back with black oval eyes and a tiny mouth.
! was all she thought, going still at the strange creature.
It then did what it did best.
The glowshroom stare back at her curiously.
She stayed still, waiting for it to react.
It simply stared on.
She stalked in closer, sniffing the strange fungus.
It stared back.
She understood in her core, she could absorb beings and gain their traits. She couldn’t remember if she had to completely devour the creature. She would test the theory. She moved in close and licked the cap, taking a hairsbreadth of molecules with it. She felt her mind expand, understanding how the mushroom was made, how it worked, what it’s genetic code was. The glowing mushroom shut it’s eyes and squeaked a protest. She then felt her being, her cells she had deposited from her saliva begin to devour the cells of the mushroom, changing it. This wasn’t her intent.
She reached out and felt her cells doing quick work to the mushroom. The mushroom cap began to deteriorate, it’s tiny eyes shut. She called off the attack, instead of forcing her cells to repair the damage and change into the mushroom’s cells. The damage was quickly restored, with the mushroom looking back curiously.
It is not aggressive, and I do not need to completely devour it to gain any genetic material. She concluded.
She felt in her being this was the correct action.
She accessed the ability of the glowing mushroom and began to emit a violet light. The mushroom’s eyes grew in surprise.
It smiled at her, gently swaying it’s cap.
She now had the light of her own, glowing brightly. She stalked passed the mushroom, seeing lights of all colors in the distance. It now occurred to her a single undeniable fact.
She was deep underground.
How did I get here? She pondered.
And what is here? She added.
A new feeling welled up inside her. An excited feeling. She forgot all pain of the past, seeing the strange adventure in front of her. Whatever this massive place was, she would explore it.
It then dawned her another lost truth. She had little idea what her calling was or who she was. For all she knew, today was her first day of existence. Her very strange shapeshifting existence. She discarded her foxcatmole form, reverting back to her original form. Her flesh rippled and morphed, the hair receded and her mass grew. Her form was long-limbed and hunched over with brown hide. Her face was long, bestial, and predatory. Her teeth protruded, giving her a wicked bite. Her two yellow forward facing eyes sported a four-pointed iris. Her widow’s peak and massive mane were formed from large boney quills that trailed all the way down to her back. Her large hands that sported two thumbs and five fingers and were tipped with hooked claws. She stood on her double-jointed legs, putting all of her weight on her sizable ankle tendons. Her feet sported the same hooked claws. She settled down on all fours, sniffing the ground for any loose scents. She caught several, each one unknown to her. This was her new goal. Find creatures, take their DNA and absorb them as her own. Then become more powerful enough to defeat whatever had sent her down here.
Her eyes sharpened to night vision, seeing the under cavern for miles. She let out a chuff at being unable to see the ceiling.
How is it still standing? Are there cave-ins? She pondered.
She was suddenly wary of large falling rocks.
She began to prowl forward, the rough rocky ground gave way to mossy green terrain. She padded forward, feeling the soft clothlike moss between her toes. She gave a contented grin, her first. The soles of her feet began to absorb the moss, making sure to not attack it like the glowing mushroom. She didn’t want the entirety of the mossbed to replicate into her. That was what she understood instinctively, that she could completely absorb a being and then become them, or control them as copies. The moss had a taste to it. Like earthy sage, cilantro, and spinach. It was nutrient dense, and it was entirely possible she could subsist off of this moss alone. She continued stalking along, absorbing trails of moss as she went. As far she knew, her stomach had no bottom.
What am I?
She had a solid idea of what she was, a hybrid, a shapeshifter, a chimera. She was not normal by any means. Not to mention the scar on her throat. No matter what she did, it always reappeared with each new form. She idly felt at it, feeling the pattern to it.
It felt like a brand.
She had no idea of who or what branded her but hated the idea that someone or something put a permanent mark of her. She judged it as a shapeshifter insecurity. Her quills quivered, her eyes focused as her instincts blared.
Something was close by.
The field of moss stretched out in front of her, scattered with boulders and a grouping of stalagmites. Eyes glinted off of the glowshrooms, half a dozen of them as they meandered from the stalagmite cluster. They wore various states of clothing, armor and almost nothing. They were large, just shy of six feet tall and almost all muscle. Each had a well-endowed gut with pale white skin and grey spots. Their faces were disquieting, with moon shaped heads, large solid black eyes, pale shark teeth, and pencil noses. Their bat-like ears twitched in anticipation of the easy fight they expected. They all wore smug grins. One of the creatures had just a ragged loincloth, which she suspected was of a lower rank. He gripped a nearby stalagmite, breaking a piece free and brandishing it as a club. He clapped the makeshift club in his empty hand, making his intentions evident.
The one she suspected was the leader was armored with scrap plating, the plated skirt jingled with every step. He wielded a gnarled walking stick. One wore leather armor and had a rifle of unknown capabilities. The rest had bludgeon weapons made of scrap.
“Boss, what kinda beast is tha’?” One of the creatures asked with a deeper voice.
“Tha’ one? Tha’ ones me new coat.” The larger one stated with a deep bellowing laugh.
Her quills bristled at that, expanding outward, ready to fight.
“You don’t want to do this,” She said with a snarling growl to back it up.
“Ya I do. A talky one, eh? Wa’s your name, coat?” The leader asked pointedly, spitting into the nearby moss.
She thought for a moment, trying to remember.
“Maw,” She stated.
They all began to encircle her. The one with the rifle concerned her the most. She would target him first. Her quills bristled and flowed, pointing forward. She remembered what her form did.
“And why shouldn’t we do this, little tart?”
“Because I will eat you,” She replied with a snarl.
The larger being laughed at that.
“You’ll eat me? Wha kina of threat is tha?” The larger one bellowed a laugh at that.
“Trows are the strongest, little tart! ‘Eres a threat. Hol’ her down, boys,” The Trow began, lowering his hand and brandishing his gnarled walking staff.
“Because I’m skinnin’ you alive! You’ll get to see me wear you,” He stated with a quiet rage.
She struck first, firing a billow of quills at the strange aggressive Trows. The volley flew with the Trows ducking and dodging with bellowed protests. The Trow with the rifle took a volley of quills from his thigh to his face. It let out a gurgled shriek, as he dropped to his knees. The rifle fell to the soft moss, but the Trow still stood. It began working on pulling the quills from it’s flesh, starting with his face. The wounds from the pulled quills closed and knit shut within an instant.
Accelerated healing. I can feel him fighting off my cells, She thought to herself.
The other Trows bellowed and rushed her, faster than she thought they were capable. She rushed off to the side, trying to catch the group one at a time. The closest Trow swung it’s scrap club and she stood still. The Trows eyes went wide with confusion at her sudden pacifism. The club struck at what should have been a shattering skull was instead stuck in to a fleshy slime. Her head and neck collapsed and wrapped around the club and arm, coiling it in place. The Trow gave a bellowing shriek as it attempted to pull away, it’s arm being ground down by suddenly sprouting teeth. She grabbed ahold of his shoulders and drew him in, her gelatinous upper torso engulfing him. The other Trows reached her and tried to fight back against whipping quills.
The other trows were taken aback by the sudden body horror and slowed their charge, giving her time to retreat.
Maw pulled away, leaving her upper torso to devour the Trow. Her low torso backed away with a leap, suddenly flowing and spiraling away. It formed back into her ravager form, harassing the lead Trow with bristling quills. The Trow engulfed by her upper torso flailed about, muffled by the flesh merging into his head and torso. Three bladed limbs sprouted and began to slice into the two other Trows, pushing them back.
The lead Trow bellowed an order in a language she did not understand. The two Trows pulled back, rushing to put themselves in between Maw and their leader. The lead Trow began to bellow something as his walking stick lit up, channeling a fire to his open hand. He let loose the sphere of fire, which tumbled along the ground like a wheel, growing size due to the fuel of the moss. It struck the infected Trow, bowling it over and engulfing it in an inferno. The wheel kept spinning away, leaving a burned trail of ash in it’s wake. The infected Trow let out an inhuman shriek as Maw’s cells burned. Parts of the infected Trow dropped off, trying to escape. It stumbled to the group, trying to fight with futility. A pulse round from the rifle Trow took out a leg, stumbling it to the burnt moss. The former Trow burned like a pyre, thrashing about like a dying insect. The burning wheel kept traveling into the distance, exploding against the cavern wall.
The leader is a caster of sorts. Fire. Bad, Maw processed internally.
A pulse round struck her mane, taking with it a bundle of quills. Maw let out a shriek of pain at the bleeding scalp.
Her eyes went red, something had changed.
“Please protect me,” A voice ordered, her instincts went mad.
Her mane regenerated as she let out an ear piercing shriek. The Trows covered their heads as their eardrums ruptured. She rushed forward, letting out a stream of quills at the stunned Trows. The closest Trow took the brunt of the quill barrage, going down with bellow at the new thirty quills sticking from his torso. The three other Trows put themselves in between her and more threatening Trows. She flowed past them, slashing all the way. She took the arm off of one, it’s stalagmite club sent flying end over end to the mossbed. He shrieked with pain and rage, dropping to his knees as grey blood oozed from the stump. She stopped to the other two Trows, shrieking again, their eardrums ruptured once again from the attack. Only one was stunned and paid for his weakness as Maw took a massive bite from his neck, almost decapitating him. She ate quickly, finally learning of their genetic code, their DNA and why they were resistant to her attacking cells. The Trow dropped like a gurgling tree to the moss, staining it with grey oozing blood. The rifle Trow fired a quick volley, but Maw expected the return fire as she strafed, flowing and spiraling around as inhuman flesh.
The lead Trow’s staff began to glow and channeled more fire, creating a wall of fire in between him and Maw, giving the rifle Trow cover. She shot her quills through the fire, each one glanced off of the lead Trow. He bellowed a laugh, the flaming quills doing nothing.
“Fire is my domain, lil’ tart!” The lead Trow challenged.
He cast another fire wheel, aiming towards Maw. She deftly dodged, arcing more quills over the wall of fire, sending the rifle Trow scurrying. Maw turned to the last two Trows, the one with the lost arm was healed, however, he was still struggling to move, her attacking cells had infected him and were breaking him down, converting his cells to Maw’s. The healthy Trow bellowed a challenge, charging her flank. Maw ignored his challenge, instead extending her quills and whipping them at the Trow, scoring several fatal hits. The Trow fell back with a roar, deep cuts formed along his chest, gut, and face. Maw sidestepped another fire wheel, turning to address the wounded Trow. She focused all of her quills into a cone and fired, spearing the Trow through the heart with dozens of quills. The Trow dropped with a grunt, going still.
She then activated her plan by firing another volley of her quills over the firewall. The lead Trow began emitting a jet of flame from his hands, which Maw dodged effortlessly. The jet expanded, becoming another wall of fire.
Maw’s eyes went wide as she understood what the Trow was trying to do. He was placing her in an oven. Flames rushed past her, creating a third wall. Her route to the Trow leader was barred by a firewall. Her left and right were also barred by firewalls. Maw rushed back towards the entrance, getting scorched by another sprouting wall, blocking her in. All four directions were locked in with fire. Her body began steaming from the heat as she emitted heavy amounts of sweat to cool herself off. She had to act quickly.
The Trow bellowed a taunt.
“Forget about skinnin’, I’ll be the one to eat you,” The lead Trow bellowed with a laugh.
A wall of fire began to plume and raced towards her.
She had seconds.