Water…. Dark…. Silence….
Rain gradually drifted back to some form of consciousness, it felt like it took hours.
His vision remained hazy and dark around the edges. He attempted to look around. He couldn't see much. Far above light pierced a rippling watery surface, but it didn't truly light the place. It was dark down here, far below.
He belatedly realised that he was in fact underwater; it took only a little while longer for his fuzzed mind to realise that he wasn't breathing. Strangely he found he didn't panic, he felt not calm, but near mindless, as though he was still half asleep.
His vision drifted down and he realised he was floating above a human corpse resting on the lakebed. A corpse that had been brutalised and dismembered. His eyes wandered over it without understanding.
Rain heard a voice. He slowly blinked, or at least he tried to, no eyelids dropped down to cover his sight. This puzzled him, but not for long, it was hard to really be concerned about anything in his current state. Everything was just so unimportant.
Rain’s view eventually drifted from the curious corpse and across the sandy lakebed. Not for long did his eyes drift because something caught his eye. The corpse had caused a recent disturbance in the sand and something had been unearthed. A skull.
Sluggish images of a wolf drifted across Rain’s consciousness, that was what it reminded him of, a wolf's skull but different somehow, whatever.
Was it the skull that was trying to speak to him? How odd.
Hmm well it didn't seem important, much like everything else. Rain was content to simply exist in this warm mindless fuzziness.
“My people… gone…”
Rain pondered if it would ever shut up or if he was doomed to hear meaningless rambling for eternity.
“I… the last prince.”
Rain felt the mild spark of interest the skull had created start to lose its tenuous grip and he went back to examining the corpse. It did feel strangely familiar but he couldn't place why.
The sand was awfully reddish around the corpse, it couldn't have been a pleasant death.
Rain’s musing was interrupted by what felt like a question inside his mind, one that he actually had to respond to. Not that he cared about the content but he would quite like the feeling to go away so he could go back to his dreamful musing. He answered in the negative and the question disappeared. The skull stopped talking.
Time passed and Rain could feel himself gradually slipping away as though he was moving to a more dream like state, somewhere else.
The skull’s voice returned. It seemed to be struggling to get through to him. He didn’t really have an answer as to why that was. More to the point the annoying question had returned and was penetrating his mind, demanding an answer. If he could have sighed he thought he would have. He decided that if one way hadn't worked then maybe the other way would. He answered in the positive and the question disappeared.
Peace returned to his dark watery domain.
Rain settled back into just existing.
Time passed. He noticed with mild interest that his perspective had changed. The corpse was closer. In fact it was really starting to get quite close now. He felt… whatever he was, touch down on the corpse's chest. He looked around ponderously at this non-development.
More time passed.
He saw movement. Well, some movement. His gradual flow to the dream-like place his mind was going before had halted to his mild annoyance, so the movement was a little more interesting than it would have been.
He watched as little streamers of blood lifted from the sand and began to drift toward the corpse as though on subtle water currents. More interestingly the sand around the corpse began to shiver and bleached white bones began to tremble and shift themselves free.
Rain considered that whatever the bones had belonged to it must not have been particularly large, he estimated it was similar to the body in size.
Anyway, a march of bones began, bones gliding across the sand, all with the aim of traversing the sandy lakebed to the mutilated corpse. One by one they arrived and came to rest against it. The smaller bones didn't stop there and they began to gradually burrow their way into the body's flesh.
The last of the bones to arrive was the skull. It slid across the sand as though drawn by an invisible force leaving a short grooved trail in the sand behind it. It came to a stop touching the neck of the corpse.
At this point things sped up.
Bones burrowed and flesh rippled. The body seemed to unknit itself of its own volition, strings of flesh unzipped and muscle and vein bloomed outward like some kind of horrific coral. Rain had the vague sense that he was supposed to feel disgusted with this.
The head of the body split apart, the skull fragmented and the wolf skull was drawn into place. Flesh wrapped around it and for a time the whole corpse writhed and shifted and bits moved and repositioned and melded and reformed, like a sack wrapped tight around a hundred wriggling snakes that deformed its surface.
Bones lined up and joined where there were once arms and flesh formed from the stumps to engulf it. It was all quite fascinating in Rain’s mindless ‘oh this is happening’ sense of the world.
As the seaweed like fronds of flesh and vein and skin began to retract toward the corpse, Rain felt himself drawn downward into its chest. He didn’t mind, nothing really meant anything, this was just happening apparently.
His vision slowly fuzzed and blurred and darkened until there was nothing.
Rain opened his eyes and immediately panicked.
He was underwater, deep underwater, and in the process of drowning, his lungs were flooded with water.
On instinct he shoved his legs beneath him and heaved upward with as much strength as he could muster. He shot off the sandy lake bed and rocketed up like a cork.
The rippling surface light drew closer until with a rush of cold air he broke the surface. He immediately convulsed and a fountain of water exploded out of his mouth. He gasped wretchedly, barely getting air. He bobbed below the surface before thrashing at the water to bring his head above the surface again. Shore. Land. He needed land if he had a hope in hell of clearing his lungs. Burning for breath he spied land and struck out for it. He swam with desperation. More than once he tried to breathe, only managing half gasps that barely kept him going. As he neared the shore he could feel himself losing consciousness, nevertheless he dragged himself onward with pure adrenaline. Sand. Stone. Ground. He crawled from the water like a drunkard and collapsed. Half a second later he vomited water and then continued to vomit water. With shaky arms he lifted himself and water poured from his throat, from his lungs, his stomach. By the time he was done his insides burned from clenching and squeezing. But he could breathe, that was what mattered.
He flopped on his back and took great heaving breaths.
He was alive.
“Why am I alive?” he croaked.
His voice did not sound normal. He opened his eyes blearily and realised there was something partially blocking his vision. He moved an arm upward to move it away and somehow bashed himself in the nose.
Confused he lifted his hands up to feel at his face, except what appeared in front of his eyes was not his hands but some kind of large furred paw like things with black claws. He yelled and flinched away afraid of a hidden monster.
When nothing attacked him he paused and looked around. He was alone on the lakeshore. No monsters, not even the group he came with. The memory of what they had done to him hit him like a sledge hammer and he had to rush to suppress the memory, box it away, even so he felt himself nearly lose it.
He shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.
Step one, what was the thing blocking part of his vision. He brought one hand up this time and, well, it took only a second of seeing it move to realise that he was in fact looking at his own hand, but become monstrous. No longer a Human’s hand but a cruel looking paw, broad digits with paw pads, claws, even a thumb digit with its own pad and claw. He curled his paw experimentally. A quiet voice was screaming in the back of his head but he felt like he had gone somewhat past the limits of what a human was capable of coping with due to recent events. He brought his hand, paw, up to his face and gently padded at it. The thing partially blocking his view was his new snout, muzzle, nose. Not good. Alarm levels were spiking as his paws wandered downward where a mouth full of razor sharp teeth became known. An animal's mouth. A wolf’s mouth.
He sat up and looked down at his body. His legs were no longer the nice and normal plantigrade human legs but a double kneed kind of digitrade wolf leg, worse it was all covered in wet black fur! In fact all of him was! He held up his arms in horror realizing he was entirely covered in the stuff.
Breathing hard and verging on a panic attack he crawled to the lake’s edge and peered at the water. It took a moment to still the ripples but as he did he saw not a human face reflected back at him but that of a threatening looking black wolf with yellow eyes.
He slumped backward and scuttled away from the water's edge
He tried to clutch at his head but the feeling of his paws just brought the fact he was a monster home.
“Oh gods oh gods oh gods what is happening to me!?”
He chose to close his eyes again to gather some sense of control.
“Breathe, just breath Rain, just fucking breathe. Inhale, count to six. Exhale, count to six. Inhale, count to six. Exhale, count to six.”
He remained like that until the sheer animal panic that was attempting to rise up in him had passed.
At last, after what must have been nearly twenty minutes of calming himself and fighting down trembling gut wrenching panic he felt well enough to open his eyes.
He was still a monster.
But this time he didn't immediately freak out.
“L-last thing I remember was hearing that voice on the lake bed. Gods, what was it, something about a prince and inheritance. It made no sense, it might as well have been a nonsense dream if it weren't for this monstrous body.”
Blowing air out of his nose he decided he felt collected enough to stand. This was easier said than done with his new legs and it took more than a few tries. After he fell for the third time he figured out that thinking of it as standing on tip toes would be the equivalent anatomically as a human’s heel would be the second ‘knee’ of a wolf or a dog.
At last he was upright, wobbly but definitely upright. He looked down and tried to get a measure of himself.
“Well... I’m still short, but... at least I’m a little less short?”
He wasn't certain by exactly how much but he was sure he was a little more above the ground than his past self.
He looked over his body and found a black wolf tail hanging from his backside, currently soaked and hanging limp. With a discomfited feeling he tried to shake it and to his surprise it responded.
He suddenly had a thought and snapped his head around to inspect his groin area. He panicked thinking there was nothing there, but after a moment he realised what he was looking at was something like a wolf might have, a black furred sheath. He wasn't willing to explore further but he was glad he apparently had something down there. He wasn't sure he wanted to know the details.
As he acclimatised himself to simply standing his stomach growled, painfully so.
“Fuck, if this is all new then I’ve basically never eaten.”
He looked around hopelessly. The shore stretched in either direction with no sign of anything foodlike.
“Well I can't do nothing or I’ll starve, so I guess I’d best look for something.”
He picked a direction and began walking, or at least a wobbly drunkards version of walking that half the time had him stepping backward to regain his balance.
He made his way along the shore leaving wolf pad wet footprints in his wake.