"Of transforming into Animals..."
by Inhotep in Dark Ages

I have recently taken note, while riding in the country, a hovel set off the path, just beyond the Casmanium Mines; close to the edge of the Mileth Forest.

I might never have noticed the dwelling if not for the abundance of cats and other animals that ran loose about the property. As is normal with cats, they would stare intently at me every time I passed by. It is, however, not in the fashion of other animals to stare so, and lock gazes with a human being. I first noticed the odd behavior in the three-shoat pigs that were milling about close to the path. As I rode by one afternoon, the sun just beginning to set, I glanced over into the yard. To my surprise, I saw the three hogs standing sided by side near the broken well pump. They were all three staring directly into my eyes. Were it not for the chill I felt pass through me, and the feeling of dizziness in my head, I might have taken less notice of the odd behavior. But as it was, I felt as though those filthy animals were in some way aware of me, and in more than just a general way.

Cautiously, I rode around behind the house, the eyes of the pigs following me all the way. As I went, I noticed that the yard was full of all variety of cats. As I drew near to the crude shed behind the house, I saw that several goats were inside. My horse became suddenly restless, so I dismounted and tied him to a tree and proceeded on foot. By now all of the animals were watching me intently, cats, goats, and pigs. As I approached the shed, one of the pigs turned and abruptly ran to the other side of the house and disappeared, presumably within. This astonished me. Why had only the one pig broken from the others and ran? And why did it choose to run into the house? I was thoroughly intrigued now. My unease had lessened somewhat now that the darkness was overshadowing the yard, and I could no longer see the animal eyes quite as clearly. I began to think that perhaps I had only imagined the intensity of the animal stares. I did, however, still wish to meet the person whom dwelled in a house where pigs were free to come and go as they pleased!

As I passed by the darkened shed, a voice called out from within, freezing me instantly in my tracks.
“Stay away from her,” it said. It sounded strained and muffled.
I stopped instantly, again feeling quite apprehensive. When finally I came to myself, I turned to look for the source of the words. I noticed that all of the animals had vanished, leaving the yard empty. As I drew closer to the shed, from where I believed the voice to have come, I saw a most horrible sight. By the light of the now fully risen moon was visible the body of one of the goats. Its head was turned sharply over its shoulder. Its mouth was hung open and filled with dark blood. A small distance from its head, lying in the straw, was its severed tongue. With some effort I moved forward and looked further into the shed. There was no sign of any other person or beast. I reached down and gently touched the dead goat. Its body was still warm as in life; dead only seconds. Then I saw the most horrible sight of all. The front left foot of the beast was not a hoof as it should have been. It was not the foot of any beast. It was the hand of a human boy.

I bolted from the shed and ran across the yard, my head ringing. Had the words I heard come from that poor beast? And was the mutilation it suffered payment for its pronouncements?

“Stay away from her,” it had said. And how had such a beast come to be, with a human hand where its own appendage should have been? As I ran back to the trees where my horse was tied I noticed some of the other animals peering cautiously from behind the trees and bushes. I was soon to learn more than I could have imagined about all of them.

As I rode back onto the path in front of the house I saw the third pig loping out of the front door. By the faint lamplight within I glimpsed the shadowy figure of a hunched old woman.

When finally I reached home I instructed a friend to prepare something in the effect of binding magic because I was sure that this woman was a powerful witch, and I intended to take seriously the warning I had been given by that poor cursed beast.

I returned the next day and approached the front door of the house, quickly making use of the binding before I entered. The animals watched me intently as I approached. Before I even could knock, the door was opened and there stood the old woman. Her face was old and gnarled by hard work, wind and sun, but here eyes were sharp and curious. When she saw me, she smiled with her few teeth and backed away graciously from the doorway. She wore a heavy black robe that flowed around her bent shape. Her movements were strangely graceful and smooth; as if a woman half her age moved beneath her twisted garments.
“Come in good sir,” she said, her voice dry and brittle as dead twigs, the smile not leaving her face. “May I get you some ale?”
I knew better than that.
“No, thank you,” I said politely as I walked slowly into the shadowy room. I noticed many jars and bottles scattered about, as well as baskets full of leaves and roots of every sort.
“Please, make yourself comfortable,” the witch said as she moved around to a chair next to a cluttered table. “What brings a gentleman like yourself to my humble home?”
I sat down across the table from her.
“I wish to know what magic you have worked on these animals I see about your home.” I said, feeling that I must be direct. “I am the alchemist, Imotep from Rucesion, and I believe you know of power that could be of use to me in my work.”
There was a moment of silence. I knew not what to expect from the old woman. And then she laughed a cackling, brittle laugh. Her entire face wrinkled to the point of cracking. When she had calmed herself, she reach out and touched the sleeve of my coat with one gnarled hand and said: “Why my dear Imhotep, these creatures you see about you are not animals,” she laughed for another moment and then: “No, sir. They are men! Or they were men until they crossed me!”
I looked at her intently now, trying to conceal my anxiety.
“And how did this come to be?” I asked.
She removed her hand from my arm now and looked away as she spoke. Her eyes became distant. “The first ones came several years ago from the hills. They meant to rob me, and kill me I presume. I have little, but they wanted it for themselves. There were five of them, and they burst in on me in the night. They knocked me down and began to go through my things. That is when I cast the spell upon them and transformed them into goats! They didn’t know I had such power when they came down from their hills! Since then others have come to do me harm, and I have transformed them all into these animals you see around you.” She swept her arm around herself in a circle, and then was silent. I leaned forward then, looking at her closely. Her eyes remained distant, dreaming of times past.
“Will you tell me this spell?” I said quietly. “This rite of transformation you cast upon these men?”
She looked at me directly then, thinking a moment before she finally spoke.
“Yes I will, Imhotep,” she said. “I believe you, if anyone, I can tell.”

I took out my pad of paper then, and she smiled as she began to speak: “First speak these words aloud: ‘Up from earth, Unto the land, Upon the ground’ Then pick up a handful of earth and rub it together in your hands. Then speak these words aloud: ‘From the earth I draw the essence of life’ Then rub the earth from your hands onto the head of the man and speak these words aloud: ‘From you I take the shape of man, and from this earth I create the shape of the goat’ or the cat, or whatever animal you choose”
She smiled coyly at me now, and I looked up at her.
“Is that all of it?” I asked.
“That’s all,” she replied. I put my pad away slowly before I spoke again.
“May I ask how you were able to get close enough to these five brutal men to touch them and speak the incantations to them?”
She smiled again ever so calmly.
“Why, of course you may ask kind sir. There is one step I seem to have forgotten to mention.”

I barely had time to register the sound of the slamming door before one of the huge pigs came flying at me from the shadows of the doorway and struck me directly in the chest. I was catapulted backward, landing breathless in the dusty corner by the stone hearth. My head swam as the beast lumbered away from me squealing sharply.

The witch hurried up to me then with a large earthen bowl in her hand. I tried to move, but I felt dizzy and weak. She loomed over me.
“Your will be unto mine!” she invoked, and passed one gnarled hand over me. “Be still as in death”
She stood up straight then, grinning madly above me.
“This is the blood of the animal that you shall become,” she said very softly. “This is the first step Warlock. You must drink the blood of the beast so as to become one with its very heart!”
She moved the bowl closer and I could see it was full of thick black blood. I thought of the dead goat.
She was hissing now as she pointed one long finger back over her shoulder.
“Do you see these pigs, Wizard?” she said, “These filthy beasts. These pigs are all that remain of my three children. They were my beautiful sons until they were cursed!”
Her eyes had turned completely black now, like round pools of the very blood from the bowl she held in front of her.
“Many years ago I cast a spell of death and despair upon my neighbor. I cursed her womb to be poison, and bare only monsters and deformity. I hated her because she married the man that should have loved me. And so, when she did give birth, the creature was twisted and vile and lived only three days before dying in agony. Oh, how I rejoiced in my victory over her... but then...” she paused and looked over her shoulder where now all three hogs stood silently watching.
“Then, the next day I awoke to the sound of terrible, inhuman screaming. And, where my strong boys had been the night before, now were only those creatures. That which they had become.” she pointed to the pigs. “My husband left me in disgust. I learned the Rite of Transformation and now I have vowed to curse all children with the same fate as mine. I steal them where I can find them. From their mother arms, disguised as smoke or rain. From their very beds at night! I bring them here, feed them the blood of one I have slaughtered, and then perform the rite. Then I keep them, or eat them, or blind them. And if they speak, I rip out their cursed tongues!”
She leaned in toward my face with the bowl now.

“Your will be unto mine,” she again said, “open your mouth...”
I swung my arm out and cast the bowl from her grip. As I jumped to my feet the old hag tumbled to the floor with a sharp cry. The binding had worked! She had no power over me!

I bolted from the house even before the pigs could rally to the aid of their evil mother. I rode back to my home as quickly as I could. I never again ventured near the home of the old witch, although I did, through my friends, spread the word about her evil lair. I heard several months later that her home was burned to the ground, but no animals or animal bodies were ever found there.


Imhotep -Grumbling priest of Sgrios
Anima Depascor Anima