Have you ever made a decision you immediately regret, like ordering one drink too many at the bar or starting up a conversation with a particularly verbose acquaintance? This was sorta like that, but a thousand times worse.
I’m not even sure why I did it. I knew we had to get across the pit, but we had no clue how to get across such a large chasm. I wasn’t thinking straight, or rather I was thinking in the brashest sense of things again. After all there had to be a reason for that liquid to exist, and everything else we had tried with it thus far had failed. After a sip I didn’t notice anything; some rather thick and bitter taste but it didn’t seem lethal. I guess that lulled me into a false sense of safety because right after that I chugged the remainder like it was a mug of mead over at the Golden Hand Clubhouse.
I don’t remember when I really started to lose myself, but it must have been pretty early on. After just a few moments I was doubled over on the floor; throat clenched with my fingers digging into my arms. The initial feeling was like razor blades pushing against the inside of my skin. The serrated edges ripped their way through my flesh only slightly but as soon as there was an opening it was as though someone forced their fingers into the laceration and began pulling at the edges to widen it.
The pain was immeasurable. I can remember my own painful shrill echoing through the cavern for what seemed like an eternity. I had never heard myself scream before, at least not that I can remember—it’s a horrible sound I never wish to hear again as long as I live. Somehow that one noise was so piercing and violent that it dulled the rest of my senses sans the agonizing pain. I remember writhing in shock with my body thrashing in all directions. In all likelihood I probably slammed my head against the smooth stone floor more than a couple times in my horrid spasms, but my transformation left me numb to those minor inconveniences.
Soon my wounds were large enough to be used as gates, and I felt the long scaly wings start to emerge from my back. Where they came from I can’t even begin to fathom. Was this the power of magic? To make the impossible a reality? If that’s true I worry for the sanity of every mage out there who dares to claim they have the power to manipulate these eldritch forces at their fingertips.
Every nerve on my body was sensitive as if they had all chosen this exact moment to reveal their frailty. The wings extended out from my back in what seemed like an endless march and nothing I could do stopped the pain. I can’t remember what the others were doing during this. I can remember glimpsing during the brief moments my gaze could focus for even a moment, but even in my clearest recollection I didn’t see them reacting. Instead one distorted images fades into a blur of dull tones—likely the floor during one of the many times I was hunched over hacking up a thick wad of blood onto the ground. Or so I’m told. I wasn’t aware I was doing it, but my allies said it must have happened six or seven times as evidenced by the large crimson stain beneath me.
When it finally ended all I can remember was an overwhelming sense of relief. My face was drenched with sweat, but my back was covered in blood. When the wings emerged they forced themselves through my armor, and what tattered remains were left of my clothes were now a ragged ruddy mess. Regaining my senses took time and my body was still adjusting the pain very slowly. My breath was worn and haggard as though I had just ran from Colingrove to Wyrmwick without stopping, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t stop a slight quiver in my body as if my nerves were dreading the possibility that the process could start again at any moment.
After my breathing returned to normal and my eyes could once again focus on a single image I looked up to find myself under the judging eyes of my flabbergasted party members. I was not used to showing a vulnerable side—especially not to strangers, so I quickly discarded my pain-stricken frown and replaced with the same bold grin I had when I suggested our earlier “diplomatic” decisions. “Hey guys,” I said meeting their bewilderment with a smirk, “I bet I can fly now.”