Faithseeker 10: The Shapeshifter
Storytelling in the Mirror of Dark Fantasy
Essembra, fifteenth day of the month of Flamerule 1372 DR
It’s early morning and Selia, as usual, is walking towards the woodland district, where she plans to spend a pleasant day in the company of her friends. Suddenly, she is stopped by a young man, exclaiming that he has a package for her. Selia opens the box immediately, eager to see the surprise – and drops it onto the ground in shock. There is a severed hand inside! And not only that – there are other items there, all broken or covered in blood. Selia overcomes her shock and asks the boy who told him to give her such a horrible package. The messenger, hearing her voice, realizes he made a mistake. He explains to Selia that the package was supposed to be delivered to Orleana, the Silver Star of Selûne, staying at the Ilmeth estate. Both Orleana and Selia have silver hair – a trait that the boy thought is unique to the Selûnite priestess, so he did not hesitate to make the delivery when he saw a silver-haired lady in front of Ilmeth estate. Selia decides that since the severed hand was not for her, she should not allow it to spoil her good mood. She gives the package to the Ilmeth doorkeeper standing nearby and continues her day as normal.
In the evening, Selia tells her friends about the strange package. Hervor encourages her to learn more about this “Orleana”. They arrange a meeting with the Silver Star of Selûne in front of the Ilmeth’s estate and explain the situation. Orleana introduces herself as a wandering warrior who fights evil wherever she finds it. She believes that the package was sent by some evildoer who wants her to know she has been marked as his target. She warns Selia to be on her guard: if the messenger confused her with Orleana, this situation may happen again. Selia promises to be careful.
The very same evening, when Selia is coming back from the woodland district to the inn, she is attacked by a horrifying assailant: a monstrous cat-like humanoid! Fortunately, Selia is on her guard the whole time and notices weird sounds coming from above, so she manages to counter the attack by blinding the enemy with bright light. This brings the attacker to the attention to the archers guarding the city streets from their posts. The cat-man wounds Selia, but suppressing rain of arrows forces it to abandon its target and run away. It escapes to the rooftops and manages to injure one of the archers before it disappears in the shadows. Selia tries to run after him, but seeing the wounded archer she decides to help him instead, and patches up his wounds. She’s no match for the cat-man anyway, especially with her injured leg.
Next day, when she changes the bandage, she notices that the wound is strange – it is in shape of claw marks, but without the middle claw. Selia concludes that the attacker must be missing the middle claw and decides to look out for this unusual trait in case she sees any cat-man again. She contacts Orleana to share her observations – the Silver Star of Selune suspects the attacker is a member of the cult of Malar that she managed to destroy a few months back. Moreover, there have been stories about a cat-like beast roaming this area, killing travelers and eating their hearts. Selia can’t sit idle when innocents are suffering and agrees to help Orleana bring the monster to justice. They ask the local guardsmen for help and soon everyone is on the lookout for a man (or a creature) without a middle finger. Selia and Orleana patrol the city together and soon they notice a cloaked man passing them by. The man’s face is human, but his lack of a middle finger and hateful glances sent their way are unmistakable – Selia recognizes him as the attacker and runs after him, shouting for help. The man, even in his human form, is unnaturally fast and manages to run out to the city outskirts, far away from the guards towers. There, he shapeshifts and becomes the cat-beast that Selia has seen the other night.
He fights both Selia and Orleana, who, armed with their weapons, manage to harm him pretty severely. He does not give up, however, and uses his powers to force Orleana to reveal her lycantrophy and shapeshift into a white owl. This sudden change startles Selia. The beast uses this opportunity to escape to the roof of the nearby storehouse. Orleana flies there to fight one-on-one, while Selia tries to help Orleana from below by throwing rocks at the evil Malarite. The beast, despite being outnumbered, wounds Orleana’s wing so severely that she falls prone onto the ground.
The cat-man now turns his attention to Selia. He jumps onto her from above, disarming her and inflicting serious wounds. Selia blinds him with her light and manages to push him away. Orleana, despite being injured, scratches the enemy to draw his attention. When he turns his back on Selia the aasimar stabs him. The beast falls unconscious. The guardsmen arrive and tie up the monster. Orleana tries to say something, but, since she still is trapped in her owl form, does not manage to convey her message before it is too late: turns out that the shapeshifter’s wounds regenerate really fast (since Selia’s weapon was not silver and could not inflict lasting harm) and simple rope is no match for him. He frees himself and runs away into the forest.
Selia spends next few days recovering from the wounds inflicted durign the fight with the shapeshifter. Orleana, who changed to human shape at dawn, had a broken arm – just like her wing when she was an owl. The Silver Star of Selûne was not happy with the fact that the Malarite managed to get away, but consoled herself with the thought that he won’t bother innocent people in Essembra for some time now. She spent a lot of time at Selia’s bedside, telling stories of her adventures. The other person who visited Selia often during those days was Arstag Autumnfire. Arstag, after learning that only thanks to Selia her father’s murderer was brought to justice, promises to protect her until she gets better.
In this upright company, Selia soon regains her strength and is able to enjoy the Shieldsmeet.