Fier the Changling

It was mid-day in Evodos when the birds flew in. As far as Fier was concerned his day had been going fine up until then. He had settled some numbers with a wealthy merchant down the road and had ended up selling his serums for more than he had counted on. He had found a florist shop on his way through the town and had bought a pretty bouquet of flowers which he presented to the first pretty girl he saw. This one had been a stunner, a real knock in the knees. Her hair was the color of sun on a field of grain, her skin was so pale and soft that he swore it must be cream and her name was Niarosa, so sweet a sound he could taste sugar when he said it. She, in turn, had never heard a sillier name than Fier the Changling. When she laughed it was as if he had heard bells chime. Which he had, actually. Only they didn't so much chime as clang in the alarm towers that skirted the town. The street that Fier had been arm in arm with Niarosa down became shadowed and he heard the familiar sound of beating wings.

"BIRDS!" A shout came down the road and Niarosa took off, dropping her flowers onto the ground as she went.

"Come sweet Fier!" she called over her shoulder to him, her pretty white shoulder with a golden curl falling down her neck. "Do you want the birds to get you? Run!"

Fier sighed wistfully as he watched her go and, holding a solitary red rose in his hand, he smelled it somberly.

"I can not..." he murmered as a swarm of birds blackened the sky above. "..Good bye my Niarosa."

He threw the rose down with a sigh.

The birds came down in a spiral upon him and hit the ground around his feet. Inky, transluscent feathers burst into black plumes of smoke and soon the entire street was engulfed in it. Fier waved away the dark, dismal smog and through it he saw a trio of figures coming his way. They were forever obscured by a thick skin of smoke, their faces smoothed over like a river worn stone. Fier did not run. The birds were faster. He did not fight for the birds were stronger, and he did not beg for the birds were souless.

"I suppose it's time," was all he said.

They wrapped their dark arms around him in a strange embrace.

"Feels like whispers... and shadows..."

He felt dreary. When he collapsed he never felt the ground hit.

Dark... deep... strange- and then Fier was awake and he was on his knees on a cold, stone floor in the dim, red light of but one orbed lantern suspended in the air . He tried to stand and a hand shoved him back down roughly. There was a guard on either side of him.

"Stay down, you wretch."

He looked for the origin of the low, echoing voice and found it standing in the shadows just before him. The figure stepped forward and was revealed to be a man, tall and gaunt, with a nose the shape of a raptor's talon and probably just as sharp. He had dark, menacing eyes and a fixed furrow between his thick eyebrows. As he walked forward his long, concealing black robe swept across the floor.

"This is Fier the Changling?" he asked, a brow raised in incredulity.

"And you're Graves!" Fier said. "I heard you were awakened."

"Then you know what I want with you," the man called Graves growled. He bent down and reached a long, crooked finger beneath Fiers' chin to lift his head. "... strange... you don't look like him at all..."

"He was never too easy on the eyes so I'll take that as a compliment," Fier said. He wasn't above admitting to vanity. Even in this somewhat desperate situation he found himself studying the dirt under his finger nails. When had they gotten so dirty, anyways? He hoped Niarosa hadn't seen them like this.

Graves leaned in even closer and hissed, "If you want to keep those fingers I suggest you tell me where it is NOW!"

"Where what is?" asked Fier. He was stalling but he hadn't the slightest idea why. No one was going to come charging in to save him anytime soon.

"The STONE!" Graves barked. He stood back up and said, "Do you know how long one hundred years are, boy? Do you know how long they feellikewhen you spend them trapped in a lake?"

"...pruney?" guessed Fier.

"TELL ME WHERE THE STONE IS!" Graves stamped a foot on the floor.

"...the stone.." Fier scratched his head. "...I've seen plenty of stone in my life time. You'll have to be more specific."

"Would one less hand be more specific for you?"asked Graves with frustration.

"Oh... that stone," Fier laughed nervously. "Yes... the stone my great great grandfather left me... the stone of great power, of lightness and darkness, of terror beyond belief?"

Graves tapped a red slippered foot against the stone in irritation, "...that stone," he agreed. "He gave it to you?"

"Yes," Fier nodded.

"So where is it now?" The man was beginning to look a little red in the face.

"I hid it." Fier stated.

"WHERE?" Graves roared, and spit flew into Fier's face as he did it.

"Well the point, actually, was to hide it from you," Fier began. But the glint of a dagger that hung readily off a belt secured to Graves' waist made him think better. "...I threw it into a swamp sir... the Bawd Marsh."

"That spans for hundreds of miles," Graves growled. "You will have to be much more specific."

"I was lost, sir!" Fier hurried. "I came to a pool and there over that pool sat a little one legged creature with a stick over his shoulder and a lantern attached to that.. In his right hand was a-"

"A bell," Graves finished for him. "You bargained with a bell ringer?"

"Well it was either the stone or my soul," Fier explained. "..and I thought that was fitting, you see... who ever tries to take it from a bell ringer would surely lose their soul."

"...and so you shall." Graves growled, maliciously.

With that he stood up, the full height of him was towering and terrible to look at for Fier, who hated bad lighting in any situation. Graves gestured to the Birds on either side of Fier and cleared his throat.

"Haviers, Naros! Take him to the dungeons immediately and then go to the Bawd Marsh! Bring me back the one legged creature with the bell," he looked down upon Fier a last time, with a cruel smile perched beneath his twisting mustache. "Enjoy that soul while you still have it."

Fier gulped. The birds called Haviers and Naros took him by an arm each and dragged him away from Graves and as the heavy stone doors to the evil wizard's throne room were closed he let out a small sigh of relief. Not a large one, because he was still going to be emprisoned in the dungeons of Grave's Dark Lair, but a small one, because that stone was nowhere near Bawd's Marsh. He had gotten himself some time. Now all he had to do was use it wisely.

The corridors to the dungeon were numerous, and being in the hands of two Birds made Fier dull witted and dizzy so the most he really saw go past were walls upon walls of black stone, occasionally decorated by a torch of fierce red flame or a skull here and there. He knew that after the corridors came many flights of stairs, and after the stairs were more.. well.. corridors but when he was finally released of the Birds' holds and shoved into his dungeon all he could garnish from the trip was that this was a very large lair.

"Now don't go anywhere," chuckled one bird as Fier's face hit the floor with a thud and his mind was abruptly unclouded.

"Good one Naros," the other laughed, and followed this with the clang of the iron door slamming shut.

Fier rolled his eyes and picked himself up as the shadows of the Birds tore apart and faded away. He brushed off the unidentifiable grit from his fine orange jacket and gave up just as quickly. He was in a dungeon after all, if ever there were a time to let filth stain now was it.

"Oh Parsimum, you picked a grand time to keel over." He sank back onto the floor and rubbed his head. "I hate prophecies. How am I supposed to get out of this one?"

He let silence fall and listened to his echos bound off the dark stone for a while. Then, with a shiver, he wrapped his arms around himself and looked about. The dungeon was small and oddly shaped with rounded walls. Magic was an easy architect, but rarely a precise one. There was a blob shaped window that let in the darkest and grayest of light. It was too small to fit a head through, and barred with more iron so that even a hand wouldn't get by. Fier went to it anyways and peered out. What he saw nearly made him lose his slippers. A guilotine was centered on a stone mound far below him. Surrounding this charred little island of beheadment was a pit of bright, bubbling lava and beyond that was a maze of thornbrush, the leaves of which were dripping vile amounts of viscous, green venom. One touch was enough to kill a man.

"Oh this is bad." He fell back against a wall with a gasp and closed his eyes as he began his nervous melt down. "I'm going to die. I'm going to die and Graves will find the stone and take over the world and the whole world is going to die too and there will be no hope and this is very very very bad!" He clutched at his head and pulled at his hair and then, just as he was about to start batting his head against the wall he noticed a glint in the far corner.

"What's this?" he asked aloud. There was something gleaming from a crevace in the wall. He scrambled for it and pried at the small space. What ever it was that had been stuck inside was certainly well stowed. It took several good tugs and a grunt, then dislodged with a final yank and sent Fier stumbling across the dungeon. He landed on his back and the removed object landed swiftly against his head. Fier grabbed it swiftly but before he could observe what it was a piece of yellowing parchment floated down over his nose.

He sat up and let the paper fall into his lap. Then his eyes wandered to the object in his hand.

"Well hello handsome," he grinned. "A hand mirror!"

It was indeed a hand mirror, with delicate gold embossing a frame and ruby studs in the handle.

"Magnificent!" Fier exclaimed. "Perfect for a magnificent beast like me-" he faltered as he took in his reflection.

His hair was all out of place! His face was scratched and smudged with black dust! Why he looked utterely disgraceful!

"My face.." he whimpered. "My beautiful face.."

He slammed down the mirror in sudden disgust.

"What am I doing looking at a mirror in a time like this? A mirror can't help me escape! There's just no trusting it." He stood up and remembered the piece of paper as it slid to the ground. He picked it up and read it curiously.

Trust the Mirror. It will help you escape.

Sincerely your great great grandfather, Parsimium.

It figured.

"Help me escape?" asked Fier incredulously. "How? Its a mirror!"

He stared at the paper incredulously and then it suddenly occurred to him that there was writing on the backside as well.

Ask the mirror, it will show you your salvation.

Fier lifted a brow. "Well Well," he said. "That's more like it! Finally some good news!"

He grabbed the mirror again and held it before him.

The glass lit up. His reflection melted away. There was a rush of magic that shimmered across his skin.

"Show me my salvation," he requested upon it, but on seeing the answer he could only say, "I'm doomed."