Chapter 7: Coming Out
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Alena ducked into a back alley, glancing over her shoulder to make sure that she wasn’t being followed. There was a large crack in the stone wall of this building. Pulling out a small folded piece of paper from her cloak, Alena stuffed it into the crack. She exited out of the other side of the alley into a new street, eyes peeled for anyone who might be watching her.

This was more or less what Alena had been doing during her afternoons recently. She would travel around town, picking up and dropping off notes for Resistance members that she rarely ever met in person. It was grunt work, but it was good work.

Today, she found herself standing at the back door to a small clothing store. Alena used the knock she had been forced to memorize. It was a good minute or two before the door opened and someone ushered her in.

This looked to be a storeroom. It was dark, with only slivers of daylight filtering through slots in the wall. Alena pulled a small piece of paper out of her cloak and handed it to the shadowy figure.

“This is the cipher for the new code we’re going to start implementing for this district,” she said quietly.

The figure nodded and accepted the paper before opening the back door to let Alena out. With her tasks for the day complete, Alena started the long back to Resistance headquarters. It was getting a little late by the time she arrived. On the way to see Ursel, she passed by an open room where one of the other leaders, Gernot, was standing over a table with scattered papers.

“Is this the plan to ambush the weapons shipment for the town guard?” she asked, walking up to the table.

“It is,” Gernot grunted, furling his large eyebrows.

“Can I help?”

He glanced up at her, studying Alena for a good minute before replying, “Alright. Are you any good at math?”

“Pretty good,” she replied, pulling the document he was studying closer to her before the sound of someone clearing their throat caught her attention.

“Alena, can I speak to you in my office?” Ursel asked from the doorway.

Alena followed her to the little room. Ursel sat behind her old desk and opened a drawer, pulling out a bottle of whiskey. She poured two glasses before pushing one toward Alena.

“Have a drink and sit down,” she said, gesturing to a small chair with faded velvet upholstery.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Alena asked, following Ursel’s instructions.

Ursel took a long sip and leaned back in her chair before answering, “You’ve been working with us for, what, a week now? At every turn, you’ve gone above and beyond the expectations placed on you. That doesn’t earn much, most places, but I’m impressed by the determination and tenacity that you’ve displayed since joining us.”

“Thank you,” Alena replied.

“What’s motivating you?”

“…Torben has been hounding me for years to marry him, even though I’ve been with Lukas for that entire time. Every year, he’s grown bolder, and now he’s the prefect! We were saving up to leave town, but then he sent guards to steal the money. There’s nothing left to do but fight him however we can. It’s the only way I’m going to save my relationship.”

Ursel nodded slowly.

“I used to be the town treasurer until a few months ago,” she said. “I vocally opposed some of his more regressive edicts, so Torben had me fired, touting some excuse about needing a man he could trust in my job. I found the Resistance and volunteered my home as headquarters. It’s… been difficult.” She glanced away. “Without my income, me and Ortwin—my husband; you haven’t met him yet—have to rely on his position on the council to keep us afloat. And Torben’s followers have it out for Ortwin because of his connection to me. Making things worse is that I’ve had to pour my own money into the Resistance to help keep it afloat, which is why things are, you know, in the condition they’re in around here.”

“So you understand where I’m coming from, then?” Alena asked.

Ursel nodded again, but locked eyes with Alena and replied, “At first, I was like you. Then I got to meet more of the people affected by the edicts he was passing. It’s not just other women and political enemies; immigrants and disabled people are on the chopping block, as are the jobless and homeless. There are a lot of vulnerable people in this town, and I intend to fight the bastard even if I don’t have any kind of systemic power myself anymore.” She took another sip of her drink. “I hope you get to know some more of these people yourself, Alena.”

Alena couldn’t think of what to say.

“It’s getting late,” Ursel finished. “Go home to your boyfriend. Enjoy the time you have with him. We’re playing a dangerous game, after all.”

“Yes ma’am,” Alena replied quietly, standing up.

Night was falling by the time Alena walked into her little home. A crestfallen Lukas was sitting at the table, candle almost whittled to nothing, with what must have been two cold plates of food. Alena sat down across from her.

“I’m sorry I’m late.”

“I’m just glad you’re safe,” Lukas mumbled.

Alena reached out and took her girlfriend’s hands in her own, giving them a gentle squeeze. Lukas replied with the faintest hint of a smile. Alena returned the gesture.

Inside, though, she was turmoil. It had been weeks since Lukas found the Eye of the Wild. Even with her heavy clothing and long hair tied back, it was obvious that she was a woman now, to the point where she’d stopped meeting with anyone except her boss and Alena. And Alena was worried. At some point, she was going to look at Lukas and there simply wouldn’t be any more attraction. What was Alena going to do?


Lukas still hadn’t told Marius the full truth. There was no way he didn’t suspect something; Marius saw Lukas almost every day of the week. And he’d changed the way that he acted around her, speaking softly and insisting on going to client’s homes personally for large tasks. Several times, Marius had even asked Lukas some open-ended questions, but Lukas hadn’t been able to come up with answers.

Today, Lukas was lost entirely in her work. This was a complex multi-part lock that she and Marius had been commissioned to do. Normally this was something Marius would handle personally, but since he’d started making house calls Marius had started giving Lukas more opportunities to prove herself at the store. It didn’t come with a bigger share of the profits, but it was nice to be challenged.

The sound of boots in the other room caught Lukas’ attention. Those were Marius’ footfalls; he was back from a job. But he wasn’t alone. Curious, Lukas stepped away from her work to peek into the front room.

“—when the thieves broke in, they smashed the lock on my front gate.” A man in nice clothes was speaking to Marius. “I’ve asked the guard to watch the front door for me, but my home is effectively defenseless. I need the locks on the gate and my exterior doors replaced with something that won’t break.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Marius replied, “but a job like that will probably take more than just a day. The extra time investment is going to add to the cost.”

The client rolled his eyes, then spotted Lukas peering out from the doorway.

“Does she work here too?” he asked Marius, then without waiting for a reply continued, “Have your daughter there help you. I’m sure that the two of you are competent enough to get the job done in just a day if you set your minds to it.”

Marius glanced at Lukas, who ducked out of sight.

“If you want the job done well, it will take us two days,” Marius insisted, “and that will cost extra.”

The client sighed before concluding, “Very well. But I expect this to be top priority for you.”

When the client had left, Marius walked into the back room, where Lukas had returned her undivided attention to the project she’d been given.

“Lukas,” Marius said softly, “I think we need to talk.”

“I’m almost done with this,” Lukas insisted, hands shaking as she worked.

Marius placed a hand on Lukas’ shoulder and pulled her away.

“I have been very patient over the past few weeks,” he continued, “but this clearly isn’t going away on its own and I would like an explanation now.”

Lukas nodded, sitting down and avoiding eye contact. The story rolled off of her tongue easily by now. Marius listened quietly and Lukas started shaking from nerves. As she reached the end of her explanation, Lukas closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see his reaction.

“—and it makes me look this way because I’ve always secretly wanted to be a woman, even when I was a child. It’s going to ruin my life if too many people find out. I… I have no idea how I’m going to tell my parents, Marius. I have no idea how they’ll respond. And I’m worried… I’m worried that my girlfriend is going to leave me. I waited so long for her to come to dinner last night and she just… part of me thought she’d just left to move back in with her parents without telling me. It’s not like women can marry, right? How long is she going to pretend she can still love me?”

After a while, Marius said, “Lukas, look at me.” Lukas obeyed. Marius’ expression was unreadable. “Hold your head up high. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of. You’re a very brave young woman who is going through a lot right now. I can’t imagine how difficult your situation is for you, but you--more than anyone else--are strong enough to get through it.” He paused. “I need your help with this new client, but once we’re done I want you to take some time off.”

“But I need the money…” Lukas croaked.

“I will set aside your share. It won’t be as much, with just me working by myself, but you need some time to deal with this.”

“…Thank you.” Lukas wiped a few tears from her eyes. “Can I… Can I leave early today? I need to tell my parents about all this, before I let my anxiety get the better of me again.”

“Of course. And whatever they say, promise me that you’ll get a good meal and a good night’s sleep afterward, okay? And please, talk to your girlfriend; don’t just worry about what she’s thinking.”


Lukas’ nerves started to eat her up on the walk to her parents’ home. For well over an hour, she stood across the street just staring at the building. Occasionally a gust of wind would blow the smell of fresh meat over to Lukas. Every time, she started to salivate. It was a genuine struggle not to pop out a pair of wolf ears and a tail just on reflex.

Well, at least she’d gotten over that particular issue.

Eventually, Lukas managed to get to the open doorway. She probably would have stood there forever, heart pounding in her ears, if not for the fact that her father and mother were standing behind the counter and could see her. Lukas overcame the urge to turn and run, instead walking up to them.

“What can I do for you, miss?” Olaf asked.

“Um… hi… Dad,” she mumbled.

“Sorry, couldn’t hear that. Could you speak—?” The words seemed to die in his throat as he locked eyes with Lukas. “That’s funny. My son has one red and one blue eye just like…”

Olaf and Roswitha exchanged the briefest of glances before Roswitha asked, “Lukas?! Is that you?”

“Hi, Mom,” she replied weakly, trying to make herself look as small as possible in her big cloak.

Her father was at a complete loss for words. Roswitha quickly closed and locked the door before ushering everyone upstairs. Once they were all seated, she demanded an explanation. Lukas took a deep breath and started recounting the events one more time. When she finished, Lukas’ father looked pale and her mother was biting her lip.

Lukas licked her lips and said, “So… I probably should have told you this earlier—”

“You’re damn right you should have!” Olaf bellowed. “What were you—? I mean how could this—? I… Roswitha, say something!”

“Did… Did you say that you could use magic?” Roswitha asked, eyes narrowing. “Show me.”

Lukas ran her fingers through her hair, and two fox ears sprang into existence.

“They don’t replace my normal ears,” Lukas explained, pulling her hair out of the way to demonstrate, “but my hearing is a lot sharper like this.”

“I can’t believe this,” Olaf said, shaking his head. “My own son is becoming a woman because of this stupid magic!”

“Because I want to, Father!” Lukas insisted. Her breathing was shallow. This wasn’t going well.

“So you can really do magic,” her mother said, almost with reverence. Before Lukas could respond, her mother had rushed forward and grabbed her in a tight hug. “This is amazing! I spent my entire life envious of magic-users. I wanted to be one more than anything in the world before I met your father. And now my own child gets to live out that dream herself. I’m so proud of you.”

When she let go, Lukas was shaking.

“You… You said ‘herself’ just now,” she said. “Does that mean…?”

Her mother smiled and placed a hand on Lukas cheek, replying, “Oh, baby, you can be anything you want to be. I love you no matter what.”

Lukas choked back a sob as her vision started to go blurry. She grabbed her mother in another hug, crying right into her dirty apron. The fear of being hurt by her parents had haunted her so much that Lukas had never even considered what their support would feel like.

Olaf returned below to open the shop back up. Roswitha decided to stay with Lukas for a little while longer. They had a lot to catch up on, after all.

“You need to brush your hair every day,” Roswitha said, running her fingers through Lukas’ hair. “Otherwise it’ll get tangled and knotted and you’ll have to tear those pieces out.”

Lukas nodded silently, leaning up against her mother. Roswitha had taken the apron off and the two were just sitting up against the wall. Absent-mindedly, Roswitha began scratching one of Lukas’ fox ears, eliciting a grin.

“So… does this mean that you and Alena won’t be having any children, then?”

Lukas’ grin faded fast.

“Well… I mean… the magic gives me the body that I want to have, so…” This was unimaginably awkward. “We should still be able to have children of our own. And even if that part of me did change, I can change my shape now. I’ve been practicing a lot, and it’s not just animal parts. I can make myself look however I want; it’s only that the permanent changes are outside of my control.”

“Ah, I see… I think.”

Lukas nodded, then glanced outside the window and sighed.

“It’s getting late,” she said, forcing herself to stand up. “I need to get home and start making dinner. But I promise I’ll come visit more frequently.”

“Good,” her mother replied sternly, also standing. “I haven’t seen you in weeks. Another few days and I would have come knocking on your door to demand an explanation.”

Lukas chuckled, then gave her mother one last hug.

It's always nice when parents are supportive, isn't it?

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