Author's Note: The events in this story take place before the Battle of the Three Gates and the establishment of the Metamor curse.
The sun peeked over the horizon, slowly pushing the night away, lighting up the sky with its beams. Kishu slowly opened his eyes and stretched, yawning a bit, and got up to make breakfast for himself. His steed nickered softly at him as he woke up, ::About time you woke up:: he spoke to Kishu's mind. Kishu grinned softly and scritched the equine's poll, "Oh quiet you," he said laughingly. Now this may seem a bit unusual to most, but you see, Rakurai, as he called him, was no ordinary horse, and many wondered how Kishu had managed to get the unicorn to be his steed. He called him Rakurai because his real name was in the language of the 'corns, and as such was incomphrehensible and near impossible to pronounce for the human tounge.
Rakurai whickered softly, nuzzling Kishu's hand, ::No fair!:: he said, with a smile in his mental voice. Kishu grinned broadly, then went about cooking his breakfast, a small bowl of porridge, with some berries he had gathered the previous night. Rakurai, meanwhile, had his breakfast, grazing quietly on the long grass nearby.
The man ate quickly, careful not to burn himself by eating it when it was too hot, then started packing up for the day's travel. He doused the fire and made sure that it was good and out, dumping bucket after bucket of water on it from the nearby stream. When he was finished packing up, the only things he left beind were some flattened grass, and the fire circle, ringed by stones, that he had put his fire in.
Rakurai tossed his head, in the equine equivalent of a nod. Kishu attached his one small bag to his steed, and vaulted up onto Rakurai's back. "Let's go, my friend," he said. Rakurai whinnied and took off, galloping in the direction of their destination.
As they were approaching the next village, the wind howled at them through the trees from the village, almost seeming to be in pain, and carried with it an acrid stench. Rakurai snorted, ::What's that awful smell?:: Kishu didn't reply, in fact, he looked like he was about to loose the meager breakfast he had eaten, as the scent of burnt flesh permeated the air.
"Faster, Rakurai, we must see what is going on, and help if we can," said Kishu. ::Right:: came the reply, as the unicorn poured on a burst of speed, almost flying along the path. As they topped the hill outside of the villiage, where the forest ended, a sad sight met their eyes.
The villiage was on fire, and the fire was quickly spreading to the as yet untouched buildings. Bright yellow and red tounges of flame lapped at the sky, drooling a thick grey smoke into the air, as they hungrily devoured the buildings. Even from atop the hill, the two could hear the painful screams of people as their flesh was seared of their bones, and their innards roasted.
Rakurai slowed down to a walk as they reached the village, then Kishu pulled his katana out and jumped off, "Let's split up!" Rakurai nickered and ran into a building, as Kishu ran into the one across from it.
The little girl screamed as the door imploded, then looked up to see a samurai in the doorway. He ran over to her and picked her up, "Anyone in here besides you?" The girl shook her head slowly, tears welling up in her eyes, "The bad man killed my mommy and poppy." Kishu sighed, "I'm sorry, little one." He then ran out the door with her, the house seeming to moan, mourning for the lost lives of those who used to fill it, as it collapsed.
Rakurai kicked the door down to hear the sound of wailing babies coming from the next room. He quickly galloped into that room to find three little boys bundled up and being held by their injured mother, who didn't have the strength left to make it outside.
The woman looked up at the unicorn and a tear fell from her eye, "Please, please...take care of my babies," she pleaded with the equine. Rakurai nodded and took the bundle in his teeth, ::Your children will be well taken care of:: The woman smiled weakly, "Thank you...thank you..." her voice faded away, as her eyes closed for the last time.
Rakurai whinnied and reared, quickly turning around and heading for the exit as the roof started to cave in, burying the mother in its smoldering embrace. Rakurai turned towards the house once he had cleared the burning building, ::Rest in peace, whoever you were:: He then gallopped out of the villiage, and set the three baby boys down, nuzzling them softly.
Kishu ran up to Rakurai, holding the little girl, "Rakurai, please take care of her while I go and try to help some more people." Kishu then whispered to his friend, "She's lost her parents...apparently whoever set this villiage on fire, also killed her parents."
Rakurai nodded and whickersighed, ::Okay, be careful::
"I will, don't you worry about that."
With that, Kishu ran back into the villiage, and Rakurai turned his attention back to the little girl, nuzzling her sofly, ::Hello, little one:: he sent to the girl.
The little girl blinked then giggled softly, "The horsie talks!"
Rakurai smiled inwardly, ::Yes, I do, what's your name?::
"Hiryuu," replied the girl.
::My human friend calls me Rakurai::
Hiryuu noddled, "Nice to meet you" and smiled softly.
::Nice to meet you too::
Rakurai nuzzled the girl again, ::I..I'm sorry about your parents...::
Hiryuu hugged the 'corn's head, "Th...thank you..." and started bawling.
::It's okay dear, just let it all out...you'll feel better after a good cry::
Kishu hacked the door to pieces, and had to drop to the ground because of the smoke billowing out of the once beautiful home, which looked like it would collapse very soon. He got back up, but in a crouched position and hurried inside, trying to locate any survivors, the smoke burning his eyes.
He managed to find an adult couple, which he carried out one at a time. By that time, the smoke had gotten to him and he was wheezing a bit, but that didn't stop him from carrying the family out of the villiage to where the other survivors and Rakurai were waiting.
Rakurai looked up as Kishu slowly carried the people out of the villiage, and then collapsed after he had carried the whole family out, breathing hard, and wheezing slightly, finally seeming to find his breath just as he lost consciousness.
Hiryuu blinked and ran over to the man, "Mr. Samurai? Are you okay?" she said with a worried expression on her little face.
::He'll be okay....after some rest, Hiryuu::
The girl nodded, "Okay" and went back over to Rakurai, snugging his muzzle and scritching his poll.
~Cute little girl~ Rakurai thought ~I hope she won't be too traumatized by this. I'd hate to see such a happy spark, like hers, go out.~
Hiryuu yawned slightly and gradually fell asleep, still holding onto the 'corn's muzzle.
Kishu groaned as he slowly opened his eyes, "Man...I think I overdid it this time..." and held his head in pain as his eyes slowly adjusted to the light. He then slowly sat up and looked over at the folks they had managed to save.
The husband bowed slowly to him, "Thank you kind sir...we owe our lives to you."
Kishu smiled slightly and bowed lightly back, "You are quite welcome, it brings me great joy to be able to help people," he then grinned sheepishly and rubbed his head, "Though it can be painful at times, but the rewards are well worth the risks."
The man nodded and smiled softly, "My family and I owe you a great debt, please, if there's anything you ever need, don't hesitate to ask."
"I'll keep that in mind," replied Kishu. "So what are you going to do now that your villiage has been burned to the ground?"
"Rebuild, of course, we're not going to let that nasty wizard think he's won..."
Kishu nodded, "So this wizard is the one who burned down your villiage?"
"Yes, a very evil man...every time he visited us, at least one person would come up missing. He set our villiage on fire when the village leader and his wife, Hiryuu's parents, confronted him about it..."
"Why do you think he kidnapped those people?"
"I don't really know..." the man shuddered, "and I don't think I want to find out, either."
~Hmm~ thought Kishu, ~this wizard needs to be eliminated, he has gone too far, burning a whole villiage... He's either insane, or very evil, or both...~ he then sighed.
Kishu stood up and walked over to Rakurai, vaulting onto his back. "Which way to the wizard's place?" he asked.
"Past the villiage," the man said, "then a half-day's ride to the west, through the next villiage, and up into the mountains to the south. In a deep canyon there, you'll find his keep."
"Thank you," replied Kishu, "Please take care of Hiryuu and those three boys."
The man nodded, "I will care for them as if they were my own flesh and blood. Farewell my friend, until we meet again."
Kishu nodded and Rakurai took off through the crubling remains of the villiage, galloping towards the setting sun, and disappearing over the horizon.
As Kishu and Rakurai entered the next villiage, it was eerily quiet, the sounds of people bustling about were conspicuously absent.
::Where are all the people?::
"I don't know, my friend, but I don't like this silence, something is definitely wrong here."
"That is what we must find out."
Kishu dismounted, "Stay here, Rakurai." The 'corn nodded and looked around, his ears swiveling, to try and catch anything that might sneak up on him.
Kishu knocked on the door of one of the houses, but recieved no response. He then slowly opened it and cautiously entered, looking around for somone who might be able to tell him what had happened to the villiage. He turned a corner and heard soft sobbing from the next room.
~Sounds like another little girl~ he thought.
As Kishu opened the door, the crying suddenly stopped, and the little girl looked up at him, her eyes red from all her crying.
"Hello," he said, "I'm Kishu, what's your name?"
"Where are your parents, Koneko?" Kishu asked her.
She sniffled, and replied, "I don't know, I saw the bad man zap them and I ran away, I don't know what happened to them after that," her quivered and she started crying again.
~Poor thing~ he thought, "Let's see if we can find them, okay?"
Koneko nodded slowly and stood up. Kishu gently took the little girl's hand in his own, and led her outside, "Can you show me where the bad man zapped your parents?" She nodded slowly and led him to the far end of town, with Rakurai walking behind the pair.
She pointed to a barn, "In there," she said, and led Kishu to the door. He slowly opened it and cautiously crept inside. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he stared at the sight before him. This barn had apparently held quite a few animals, but they were no longer there. Instead, the deformed figures of once-human villiagers met his eyes.
Koneko ran over to a couple, "Mommy, daddy!" she yelled as she ran. Kishu quickly followed her, and examined Koneko's parents up close. The man had equine forelegs for arms, and hooves for hands, as well as horse ears, and a horse tail. In addition, his human legs had been replaced by the rear legs of a horse. His wife was in a similar shape, though in addition to what her husband had, she also appeared to have grown a second set of breasts below her original ones.
~What kind of sick maniac would do this to people?~ Kishu thought, his anger rising in him. He was shaken out of his reviere by Koneko crying and hugging her parents. He sighed and went to inspect the other victims.
Many were in a similar state to the first couple. He came upon a couple that appeared to have been given attributes of pigs. The man had the forelegs of a pig replacing his arms and hands, as well as the rear legs replacing his legs. Also he had floppy pig ears, a curly little tail, and his nose was stretched out slightly. He tried to talk, but was greatly hampered by his large porcine tusks, making him completely unintelligible.
The female, Kishu assumed she was probably his wife, also had two extra pairs of breasts, all three of them overly large for her size. Next to her, it was apparent that this whole family had been changed into pig-creatures, as children with piglet parts huddled against their mom.
Similar twisted forms had been given to the rest of the folks in the building. ~He will pay for this~ the samurai vowed, and returned to the first couple, "Come little one, it is not safe here," he said, and started walking towards the door.
"No...I want to stay with my mommy and poppy," Koneko whined.
"No," replied her father, "he is right, you must go with him."
"But poppy, I want to stay here with you," she cried, tears streaming down her face.
"I know, but it is not safe for you here, please go," tears ran down the deformed equine man's face, "I love you."
Koneko hugged her father tightly, "I love you too, poppy." She sniffled and got up, walking over to Kishu, wiping the tears from her eyes.
A cat, her curiousity aroused by the strange noise Koneko was making, came out from her hiding place and walked towards the girl, mewling softly. The girl stopped and looked at the feline, her face brightening, "Kitty!" She gently picked up the cat and started petting it gently, scritching its ears.
The cat started purring softly, then stopped and blinked at the girl as she started glowing. Kishu yelled, "Drop the cat!" and started running towards her.
She blinked and tried to do so, but found herself unable to move. Looking down at the cat, she screamed as it started to melt into her. The feline didn't like that situation either and started yowling and putting up a fuss, however, she was unable to move as well.
Kishu stopped running and cursed, ~It's too late for her...why didn't I expect this?~
Koneko watched in horror as the cat completely melted into her, then cringed as she felt herself starting to change. A long black feline tail grew out of her rear, and black fur started growing on her arms and legs, as her feet reshaped into foot-paws, and her hands into hand-paws, both with retractable claws. However, her hand-paws retained her opposable thumbs, so her hands were still somewhat usable.
She was in shock now, and could only stare at her reshaped appendages. Suddenly, she yowled in pain, a very feline yowl, as her teeth started to reshape, becoming sharper feline ones, and whiskers sprouted from her face, as her nose reshaped slightly. A burning pain in her eyes caused her to close them, and when she opened them again, she had slit-pupil feline-like eyes. She panicked for a moment, as her ears melted, and she was temporarily deaf until her new black-furred, pointed ears poked through her hair.
Her metamorphosis was not complete, however, as she started to grow, rapidly aging from a child to a teenager. She moaned softly as she grew, her moan taking on a sultry purr to it. Her womanly curves developed, and overdeveloped, as they went to extremes.
The glow slowly died, and she found she was able to move again. She looked herself over and collapsed on the ground, burying her face in her paws, crying softly. Kishu approached her slowly and sat down next to her, hugging her gently, and she found herself starting to purr. Kishu blinked at that, then sighed, "I'll get that wizard for this," he promised her. She looked up at him with tear-filled eyes, "Rrreallly?" Kishu nodded gently, and hugged her softly. She purred again, and slowly drifted off to sleep, the stress of her transformation having tired her out.
Kishu made a bed of straw for her, and gently set her down in it, "Sleep well...I'm going after that dishonorable dog of a wizard."
Kishu rode towards an imposing mountain range, the tops of them like daggers, piercing the sky, causing it to bleed clouds. As they approached the mountains, an opening into a canyon, like the one the man from the villiage had described, came into view.
Kishu slowly rode into it, "Keep on your guard, Rakurai. We don't know everything that this wizard is capable of."
Rakurai slowed down slightly as they entered the canyon, and Kishu pulled out his bow and nocked an arrow in it, looking around him warily.
Before them the imposing shape of the wizard's keep rose up, jutting out of the mountain, and seeming to have been carved out of the living rock. "Can you hear it, Rakurai? The mountain is crying..."
::Yes, I hear it...::
"We must end the mountain's suffering as well now, yet another reason he must die..."
Rakurai tossed his head in agreement and they continued onward towards the castle.
"So...they think they're going to kill me, hmm?" said the wizard, "I doubt it...but that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun with them first, before I destroy them," he then cackled.
The wizard turned his attention back to the little boy on the floor, unable to move, staring at the wizard with fear in his eyes. "Well...I think I'll wait to start on you until my new toy gets here..." he then laughed darkly, which just made the boy even more scared.
The wizard smirked and turned back to his scrying glass, "Let's see how good he really is..."
"Careful Rakurai, I have a feeling we're about to meet up with someone who wants to have us for dinner, as the main course."
::Yeah...I have the same f-:: Rakurai's response was cut short by a feral howling, as a pack of wolves appeared high up on the rocks in front of them.
Kishu' eyes go wide, "eep..." and he fired the arrow he'd had nocked since they entered the canyon at the first wolf that leapt off the rocks at them, catching it in the throat. The wolf gurgled and fell to the ground in a heap, as the other wolves started attacking.
Kishu leaped off of Rakurai's back, put away his bow, and pulled out his katana out, in one fluid motion, while Lightninng, now that Kishu was off of his back, reared up and brought his forehooves down hard on the skull of one wolf, then kicked another wolf quite a distance with his hind legs.
Meanwhile, Kishu was holding a couple of the wolves at bay with his sword, but was losing ground as they were forcing him into the canyon wall. Suddenly, he leapd up and over the wolves, slashing at their backs, and landing behind them, earning a few slashes in his arm for that. Before the wolves coule react, his leg shot out and swept them off of their paws, knocking them to the ground. Kishu then quickly and cleanly hacked off the head of each one.
Kishu looked over at Rakurai, who had sustained a few claw marks to his flank, but nothing too serious. "Well...that was...um...interesting."
::Yes, take a closer look at them, Kishu::
Kishu peered at the wolf closest to him, "This is no ordinary wolf...it...it...has human breasts..."
::Exactly! Those wolves were not normal...they must have been more of that sick maniac's victims, under his control::
Kishu nodded and leaped back up onto Rakurai's back, careful not to touch where the 'corn was scratched.
"Bah...those wolves were a waste..." the wizard grumbled, then grinned, "we'll see how well he handles the next challenge though..."
A voice echoed through the canyon as they approached the gates, "You must win my favorite game to gain entry to my domain..." the voice laughed as it faded away, and two pedestals rose out of the ground. One of them had four diffrent colored crystals, the other was divided into four squares on the top, one each for each of the crystals, with corresponding colors.
"What the heck is this?"
::I do not know...I have never seen anything like this before::
The voice came again, "You must repeat the pattern that the crystals flash, using the colors on the lower pedestal, it will start out easy, but get harder and harder, as the sequence gets longer, and the crystals will flash their pattern faster and faster the longer the sequence gets," the voice laughed again, "If you can make it through to the end, you will be allowed to enter...if not...." and again the voice laughed, fading away this time.
Kishu sighed, "Well...I guess I'd better get started," and jumped off of Rakurai's back.
"Thanks, I'll need it..."
He walked over to the lower pedestal, and stood behind it, looking at the crystals...and the game began. One crystal flashed, accompanied by an audible tone, Kishu pushed the corresponding square on his pedestal. Then two, then three, and so on....the pattern getting more complex and the crystals playing it faster as it got longer, just like the voice had said.
Kishu was sweating, straining his brain to try and remember the whole sequence as it kept lengthening by one each time, but he hung on, and kept going, finally reaching the end of the sequence at 30.
After Kishu sucessfully repeated back the 30-part sequence, the pedestals retracted, and the doors of the keep slowly opened outward, "You have beaten my game...and now you may enter...if you dare," the voice laughed again and faded away once more.
Kishu walked back over to Rakurai, "Let's go..."
The headed into the castle through the doors, which creaked errily as they shut behind the samurai and his mount.
Kishu looked back as the doors closed behind them, "Well...there is no going back now..."
Rakurai tossed his head, ::Yeah...let's go get that guy::
They continued forward, deeper into the wizard's domain, cautiously, but steadily.
The wizard cackled, "That's right, just keep coming, I'll be waiting for you," he smirked once again and laughed, the boy on the floor so scared now, that had he not been immobile already, would have been paralyzed with fear.
The pair continued to walk forward, seeing a door in the distance, they headed for it, an eye out for traps or ambushes, but none came.
When they reached the door, Kishu pulled his katana out, holding it ready, "Okay, Rakurai, kick the door open."
Rakurai reared up and his forehooves came down hard on the door, which swung wide open, and the two slowly advanced into the new room. They had not even taken ten steps into the room, however, when the door slammed shut behind them, and a strange glow came from the floor at their feet.
"What is this...I..I cannot move..."
::Neither can I...::
On the other side of the room, a lamp blazed into light, revealing the wizard, and his victim, the little boy, who was standing in oversized clothing to the side of the wizard. "I'm so glad you could stop by to watch me have my fun," the wizard grinned.
"You are sick..." replied Kishu
The wizard laughed, "Flattery will get you nowhere, warrior. Now watch as I show you how I have fun." The wizard grinned and began chanting, as he did so, the boy began to glow, the same glow that the girl back in the villiage had.
~Not this again~ Kishu thought.
::Is he going to merge that boy with some animal, like happened to that girl?::
Kishu nodded slowly, "I think so," he whispered to Rakurai.
The wizard cackled and dropped a spider onto the boy, which promptly sank into him, and then dropped a fox onto him, which merged with the boy as well.
~Here we go again~ thought Kishu.
The boy started to moan softly, "I feel funny..." he said in an almost whispering voice, as he started to grow, aging from a little boy to a teenager, just like Koneko had. A fluffy fox tail grew out of his rear, as his hands and feet became fox paws, with fur spreading over his entire body. His face slowly pushed out into a vulpine muzzle, while his ears repositioned themselves to the top of his head. His black hair slowly shifted shades to a light blond color, as it started to grow, and grow, and grow, reaching down to his knees.
It was made quite obvious, however, that the fox had been a vixen, and not a todd, when a pair of large breasts swelled into being on his, now her, chest, and she felt that inevitable pulling and inversion. She looked down at them, her eyes wide, but didn't have much time to stare at them before she felt a pain around the area of her hips, and watched her lower clothing rip to shreds as she grew a second pair of legs, and the lower body of a fox'taur grew in between the two pairs of legs. As the area between the two pairs of legs filled out, two more pairs of legs sprouted from it, giving her a total of eight legs.
Her change completed, her glow slowly died down, and she found that she was able to move most of her body again, just not her legs. She felt over her new body, and stared at it in shock for a bit, before holding her muzzle in her hands and sobbing.
After the little boy had finished changing into a freaky vixen, Kishu said, "You are a sick perverted little man, and you must pay for what you have done to these people."
The wizard laughed, "And who is going to make me, you? You sad excuse for a samurai? You can't even move!"
The wizard smirked, "And now, my new toy...it is time for me to have some fun with you and your unicorn friend." He cackled and then smiled, "Now...get on his back."
Kishu tried to resist, but the wizard's compulsive spell was too strong, and he found himself climbing up onto Rakurai's back. The wizard again began to chant, and Kishu watched in horror as his legs started to melt into Rakurai's back...he was merging with the 'corn!
::What's happening to us?!?:: Rakurai mentally screamed.
"He is merging us together," Kishu said softly.
::What? No!:: Rakurai tried to struggle, but the wizard had them good. Rakurai felt himself slipping away, becoming part of Kishu, and no longer his own individual...::Goodbye my friend...:: were his last words as the 'corn's head was absorbed into Kishu's torso, his horn being the last part of the the noble beast to disappear into the human's torso.
"Rakurai! No...noooo!!!!" Kishu cried, mourning his friend's loss, not even stopping when he felt his ears reshape into equine ears and reposition themselves.
The wizard laughed cruelly, "I love the sound of crying in the evening...it's so refreshing," and snickered a bit. He then smiled, "And now for a little something extra I've been saving for someone like you," he then pulled out a glass tube with a stopper in it and started towards Kishu. However, what the wizard didn't realize was that Kishu's tears had changed from tears of sorrow to tears of joy. Rakurai was still alive, although only as a voice in the back of his mind, ::I am still here for you Kishu:: the voice had said.
The wizard didn't get very far across the floor, however, when a furry figure pounced on him from out of the shadows, knocking him over and causing the tube to break in his hand, cutting his hand up and allowing the fluid in the beaker to flow into the fresh-cut wounds. "Koneko!" shouted Kishu, "how'd you get here?"
"I folllowwed you," she replied, with a purring lisp to her voice. "I wannnted to hurrrt the bad mmmannn who hurrrrt mmmy mmmommmmy and poppy."
The wizard screamed as he watched the fluid enter his veins, "You stupid cat! Now look wha-ee-aw-t you've done-eee-aww!" The wizard screamed and brayed as his hands involuntarily clenched into fists, blackend, and hardened into hooves, while his feet were suffering a similar fate. He somehow managed to get his robes off, just before his face pushed out in an assinine muzzle and the rest of his head followed suit.
As Kishu and Koneko watched, the wizard then sprouted a long, ropey, assinine tail. He was braying crazily now, as the formula revealed itself to be for a jennet, rather than a jack, and his maleness shrank away, inverting itself. However, her fate was not to be a 'regular' Jennet, as her still-human, albeit fur-covered, chest started to expand into a pair of largish breasts. She brayed loudly in distress for a couple of minutes until her eyes suddenly glazed over, and it was apparent that she then had the simple mind of a jennet.
As soon as the wizard's change was complete, Kishu, and the eight-legged vixen girl, both found that they could move again. "Koneko?" came the vixen's voice, "is that really you?"
"Yes, that's me, who arrrre you?" came the reply.
The vixen nodded, "I am, er...I mean I was your brother."
Koneko's eyes went wide, "Kit?"
Again, the vixen nodded, "Yes...that is me..."
The two siblings embraced crying softly in each other's arms, "Let's return to our villiage, sister," said Kit.
The feline nodded then turned to Kishu and bowed softly, "Thannnk you misterrr sammmmurrrai."
Kishu bowed back, "I shall find a way to restore your villiage, if it can be done, you have my word on that."
The two sisters then hugged Kishu, "Thank you, we won't ever forget your kindness," said the vulpine, and the two walked out of the wizard's keep, headed for home.
Kishu looked over at the ex-wizard, who brayed like the dumb animal she had become, "I will leave you here to fend for yourself," and slowly walked out of the castle, trying to get used to four legs. As he exited the edifice, he looked down the canyon at the siblings who were disappearing into the distance, ~I *will* find a way to restore your villiage, if it can be done~ he vowed again, and slowly walked along the canyon picking up speed as Rakurai's mental voice helped him acclimate himself to his new body, finally galloping out of the canyon and off into the west, into the setting sun.