With his last strength Rogerius managed to pull himself and the boy ashore. He hacked up quite some water, before he could breath more easy. That had been quite a close call. The boy had used the scale and he had used some of his magic to call in a small storm. Sadly weather magic was highly unstable and the pelting rain around them was proof of it.
They escaped and distantly he thought he heard Tertius call for him. Through blurry eyes he saw his fair haired mate. He expected some choice words from him, but not that Tertius would ignore him. He followed the gaze of his love and gasped in shock, fully taking in what had transpired. The sea boy was no more a child of the water.
The storm was still raging outside, while Rogerius sat before the kitchen fire, bundled up and a cup of hot tea in his clammy hands. Tertius, who was always warmer than normal people, was sitting besides him, his upper body bare of any clothing, the boy savely in his arms, rubbing warmth back into his hands and feet, mindful of the newly grown claws on his fingers and toes.
It was still hard to take in, that the child had turned into a werecat. Besides his normal ears he had a pair of fluffy, black cat ears, a cat's tail, whiskers, retractable claws on hands and feet, as well as black fur on his arms and legs.
Rogerius wondered if he would also have cat eyes.
It was about two hours later, the storm still raging, when someone knocked on their door. “Please, have mercy. All I ask for is shelter for the night.” A male voice could be heard through the door.
Both men were dressed again and the child was sleeping on a big pillow and a nest of blankets. Rogerius covered the child’s head quickly before he gave Tertius a nod to open the door.
A tall man, wearing a travel robe, a wide-brimmed hat and a walking staff, stood in the doorway. Lighting illuminated him, giving him a scary appearance. “Thank you, for your kindness. My name is Duode.”
Minding were he was treading he took a step inside and removed his hat. The shocked gasps of his hosts told him enough to know that they had noticed his blindness. “My name is Tertius, by the fire is my husband Rogerius and another guest. Allow me to help you with your wet clothes and guiding you the hearth.”
His hands had become cold from the short travel from the beach to this house, making his story believable. But inside, he was still warm from River’s loving touch and her searing kisses. She had went to great length to show him, that she wasn’t mad nor that it was his fault.
His lovely wife, who had entrusted another caretaker duty to him. Helping Koschei adapt to his new life and form.
He was helped out of his wet travel robe and his wet leather shoes. Underneath he wore a simple cotton tunic and leather pants.
It cost him a great deal of self-restraint to trust those humans after he had left his eyesight in River’s care. Sitting near the fire was a blessing. He liked warmth. A blanket was placed around his shoulders and a bowl in his hands. He lifted the item to his nose and sniffed it carefully. Chicken broth.
“Thank you. For your hospitality. I didn’t expect to find a place to stay for the night. Not after all those doors I knocked on.” Maybe those two weren’t as bad as the other land dwellers and River’s trust in them was not without reason. He took a sip from the broth and a pleased sigh left his lips.
He was woken up very loudly the next morning by the long and high pitched wailing of a cat. Well, it sounded like a cat but he knew that it was Koschei, scarred, far away from his known grounds and half blind. The latter was only a matter of time before he would become fully blind. Something River already told him about. It was also the reason why he gave his eyesight away and relearned his skills from the time before he met River.
Finding his way back to the kitchen by using his staff and counting his steps, he made it to the kitchen without walking into any door or furniture. Both men tried to calm Koschei down, who was still crying and just sounded so forlorn and lost. They became suddenly very quiet after they noticed him standing in the door.
“Good morning.” Duode tried the polite approach. They were still speechless, not so Koschei. “Are you going to explain or do you want me to take some lucky guesses?” He was fine with both ways. “What do you know about tainted wishing scales?”, asked Rogerius. “Enough to know to stay away from them as far as possible.”
“The guest we mentioned, a child, he tried to get rid of such a scale before his family could use it. They were faster than him, closing in and they only escape he saw, was using the scale himself. We don’t know, what he wished for, but we can see, what was fulfilled. Eyes and tail of a cat. An extra set of fluffy ears, whiskers, pointed canines, fur on his arms and legs, retractable claws on hands and feet.”Tertius continued with the things his mate had told him later last night after they had seen Duode to his bed.
“Bereft of his family, of everything he knows, a body he doesn’t recognize and strangers around him…” He summarised what he already knew through River. “I have seen and experienced many a thing during my travels.” He smiled a sad smile. “I was not always blind, but this isn’t a story for now. Would you allow me to hold him? Maybe I can calm him down.” While they had been talking Koschei didn’t stop his crying once.
Tertius led Duode towards the hearth and a pillow sitting in front of it. Carefully Rogerius handed the blanket bundle to their guest. He could feel no ill intentions from the blind, older man. The only reason why he gave this a try.
What had he done? Oh what had he done?! He should have wished for death and not being free of his family. Not only had he legs now, that were completely useless, they didn’t move, no matter how hard he willed them to move, he had lost his gills and become a creature of the land!
His cries seemed to fall on deaf ears, as he was moved again. The smell of salt and water crept up his nose. It was a familiar scent, the scent of home! Gentle hands guided his head towards a firm chest and he heard, what he believed to never hear again: the twin heartbeats of a kin.
It calmed him down immediately knowing that someone was near that would finally understand him. The blanket was moved away from his head and he saw an older man, gently smiling down on him, but everything was blurry on the edges. Reaching upwards he started touching the others face, mindful of his claws.
He felt wrinkles under his sensitive fingertips, a big nose, soft curly hair and he heard a voice speaking to him in the language of the sea which he answered. It was hard to get all pronunciations right with his new tongue and different teeth.
Finally, after Koschei had a chance to pour his heart out, Duode hummed a soft lullaby to help him back to sleep. In his dreams he wouldn’t be haunted by all those new impressions that had assaulted him.
He felt the eyes of his hosts on him. “I learned that his name is Koschei and he is missing his siblings very terribly.”
River left the ocean and changed to her human form. With a snap of her fingers she was dressed in the garb of the local townspeople. She had been building a reputation with them as a pastry maker and she would just return now from her travels to her family. A travel bag in hand, she walks towards the town.
On the outside she looks tired from her ‘travels’, on the inside she can still feel her husband’s loving touch and searing kisses.
Theta will by this point already be in the house of Cardinal Ainley and his husband Quartus. The girl will wake up in the next few hours and panic, screaming bloody murder. River would just have enough time to make some nice salmon pastries with herbs that will help her calm down.