Chapter two: Finding my way

I don't know how long it was that I lay among the ruined grass and dust that sat along with the wagon in my backyard, but time was irrelivant to me. I was alone; there was only me, that damn wagon, and a lot of wreckage...and that was it. Nothing else for miles around. This thought might be terrifying to an adult mind, but to a child it's pure hell. Nothing is worse to a 12-year-old than knowing that you're alone with nobody to go to. To top it off I was still in pain, and I knew that parts of me were changing, just as my legs had turned into a feathered tail. My hands hurt in particular, and under examination I found that they were doing some interesting things. My hair on my arms and hands was completely gone, and the skin had taken on a dry texture....almost scaley. My nails were growing long too, and starting to curve. That is, only the nails on my thumb, index and pinky fingers. The other fingers of my hands were starting to meld together with those three, so I was slowly changing from five digits to merely three. I didn't even touch my face or try to figure out what was happening there. I really didn't want to know.

So I lay on my side in something resembling a fetal position, and I stared at the horizon, the direction my friend had run off to. I distantly wondered if Fenrir was okay. I knew that he had taken the situation hard, so he might do something crazy like fling himself off a cliff or go up into the mountains and freeze to death. The thought of losing the one thing I had left completely wrenched at my heart, and I started crying again. I was doing that on and off...every once in a while I'd calm down and my mind would wander, but eventually it would stray back to my current situation and I would get all weepy again.

It was getting uncomfortably warm in the midafternoon heat, and I had done a lot of running without having anything to drink since early in the morning. I knew that I had to get out of the sun or I'd fry. That thought made me snap out of my whimpering stupor, and willed me to move. Eventually I sat up as best I could with my tail, and looked at the wagon. It was the old wagon my father had built when he was a teen, as a pre-marital gift to my mother. There was nothing spectacular about was just a flatbed with four walls, four wheels, and a yoke at the front for a chocobo. Now the yoke was cracked, and the underside of the wagon, which now faced the remains of Nartch, had debris embedded in it. It was a depressing site to see, that the only thing out of an entire community that was left was a sorry-looking broken down chocobo wagon. I didn't think about it at the time, but I think that I was even more sorry-looking than the wagon.

I crawled over to the broken wagon by pulling myself forward with my hands. It hurt just to try to grab at the ground, since my fingers were still changing. I managed to haul myself into the flatbed, and wedged myself into the space behind the worn-out seat in the front. Tail or not, I was still the same size I was before, so I still fit behind it easily. It was definately cooler in there, not to mention darker. At least I wouldn't have to see my nose, which had seemed to grow and turn red. I closed my eyes so I wouldn't see it at all, and I thought of how I described my "monster" when me and Fenrir were playing. It made sense...he had pretended to be a grey wolf, and as near as I could tell that's what he was changing into. I had described something so bizzare it wasn't even something that existed. Snake I had a snake tail. Feathers...I touched at my hair. It wasn't hair anymore, it clearly felt like feathers. And I mentioned claws and four arms. I groaned. Why did I say four arms? I had two at the moment, but I didn't feel like sprouting two more. Or wings. Or a beak for that matter, which I knew was already forming instead of my nose and lower jaw. The more I thought of it, the more hysterical I became. I didn't want to become a freak. I might be able to stand becoming a wolf like least he could blend with wildlife. I was turning into a dragon thing. No....a wyvern thing....something that knights and heroes hunted down and killed. And took the heads as trophies. I hugged at myself and rocked back and forth. I didn't want to die that way. I didn't want my freakish head with a beak on a wall somewhere. The thought of it all made me scream, over and over. It was a horrible scream, something halfway between a human's and an eagle's.

Then I fell silent. I didn't know why....I just felt that I should. I felt like something was nearby, and if I didn't shut my beak it would find me. I continued to whimper out of fear, and even though I knew my ears were buried in feathers I could clearly hear something walk through the rubble nearby. If anything, my hearing was much better. I heard it come closer....whomever it was, it had two legs. Maybe a chocobo, or even a person. I didn't know to be afraid or to be hopeful. I made a small sound, an indication of where I was and then listened and waited.

I heard the footsteps come closer, and stop near the wagon. They were soft and light footfalls, like the person casting them was either small or just light on their feet. It definately wasn't a chocobo. I squeezed my eyes shut, still afraid of whom or what it might be. It could be a hunter with a crossbow for all I knew. Great, my head might be on a wall. I should of never screamed. I should of just shut up.

And then I heard the gentle voice, right in front of me. "Boy..."

I shook my head, not opening my eyes.

"No...I'm not a boy anymore. Leave me alone..."

"Then what art thou? Behind thine feathers and strange countenance I doth see a boy. One who is very afraid, at that.

I opened my eyes slowly. The speaker was leaning her head into the wagon, bare arms resting lightly on the top wall of the wagon. Her hair was long, curly and brown, and seemed to constantly waver in a wind that didn't exist. So did her clothing, or what little clothing she wore. Her robe was made of gauzy silk, and I clearly see her naked features underneath. Despite the situation I was in, I stared.

She must of taken my stare for something else. "Do not be afraid, young one. I shall not harm thee as did mine sisters. I grieve for what they hath done to thou and thine home." I started to tremble. Her sisters...the two goddesses that waged war over my home town. Those two wore armor and angry expressions...meaning that they were the goddesses of death and destruction, Poltergiest and Doom. That meant that this was...

"....Goddess..." I barely could pronounce the name, my mouth having altered into a beak fully at this point.

"Thy intuition is good, young one."

My heart leapt. "You're Goddess..." The word 'Goddess' came out as 'goddethh', my beak imparing the word. "...can you do something for me?"

"Thou art a fair boy, good in heart. I will grant thee a favor in hopes that I can somehow redress what Doom's magic hath done to thee. What is it thou doth ask of me?"

I edged forward a bit, out of the nook that I was nestled in. "Please...just change me back. Make me human again."

She sighed, her look apologetic. "I am sorry, but I cannot undo things that have already been done. I am a creator, I cannot re-do another's creation." She sighed softly when she saw me start to cry. "I am sorry, little one."

"Then please...kill me. I don't care how...I just want to die." I looked at her through tear-blurred vision, and her expression told me what the answer would be.

"I do not kill, I bring life. Doom is the one who doth bring death, as well as her hand doth bring this curse upon your body. Do not weep, for I shall think of something." She sat on the wagon and patted her lap. "Comest hither, boy."

I looked at her. "You want me to sit on your lap?"

"Is that so wrong?"

I sniveled a bit. "But I'm....ugly."

"You are not ugly to me, Tritoch." I somehow figured she would know my name. "You are my child, as is everything else alive in this world. Beauty lies in all living things." She took my three-fingered hand, which was now tipped in claws. "I wish to give you comfort, nothing more."

I looked at her, and then climbed into her lap, wrapping my tail around both myself and her slender waist. She put her arms around me, and immediately I felt safe. I wasn't going to die here, and as long as Goddess was nearby, I would be all right. "Thou art changing rapildy, Tritoch, even as we speak."

"I know." I said miserably. "I should of wanted to be something else."

"Nay, for thou couldst only be what thou hath within thine heart. The wyvern is a noble beast, and should not be underestimated. His wings are broad, his beak and talons sharp, and his mind even sharper."

"I don't have wings." I said.

"Is that so?" She ripped my clothing away. I didn't care if I was didn't make any difference at this point. I could feel something strange at my extra weight. No, more like an extra amount of sensation. "There are thine wings, Tritoch. Look."

I looked over my shoulder to see a mass of feathers. Slowly I extended my wing, trying to get used to moving an appendage that wasn't there before. The feathers weren't the fluffy angelic type, but rather hard pointed ones, ones that were partially scales. Most of the feathers were a white with a green sheen, but some were a grass green, others were icy blue, and the largest ones were blood red. I stared at that wing, and I could hear Goddess laughing lightly at my reaction. I reached out to touch the feathers, and stopped when I saw how I reached for it. I didn't reach to touch it with one hand, I reached for it with two....with two right hands. I raised all four of my arms, wiggling the fingers on each one indipendantly. Goddess laughed again.

"Is it really all that amazing, Tritoch?"

"I....I don't know. I don't know what to think, other than I'm here in a broken-down cart, and I'm the..." I tried to push away the tears that were coming again. "...and I'm the only one left. Even Fenrir ran I'm alone."

"But is that truly so? Art thou alone?"

I nodded numbly, hugging myself with all four arms.

"And tell me, young Tritoch, art thou alone when I'm here?"

"W....well, no. But when you leave I'll be alone again."

"Then when I do leave, I shall take thee with me."

" home...?"

"Thine old home of Nartch is gone now, young one. Thou shalt find a new home with me." She stood up, still holding me. I coiled myself around her tighter and held on with all four arms. "I see thou doth accept mine offer."

I looked at her straight in the eyes, and then I was lost. A word of advice: never look a diety straight in the eyes, or you might find yourself serving them unquestionably. That's sort of what happened here. I wanted to be with her...I wanted to please her and to serve her. Anything to repay this act of kindness. "I want to do more than accept...I want to serve you, my Goddess. Please, let me just serve you."

She laughed, and the very sound filled my entire body with joy. "It shall be, then. You shall be mine Esper."

The word sailed right over my head. "Esper?"

"In the Gods' private language, it means "spirit". It is something between a servant and apprentace. Thou shalt serve me, but thou shalt learn the arts of magic, science, creation, and perhaps the art of fighting. Prepare thine self, Tritoch....for thou art now mine Esper, and for many years you will be working."

And so started my "Espership". Too bad I didn't exactly know what Goddess had in mind. If I knew, I would of clung to that broken-down wagon like there was no tomorrow.

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