The elixir gleamed pearly beige in the cook pot on the tiny wood-burning stove in Zan's cottage, which was a glorified tree-hollow just large enough to fit the stove, a narrow storage cabinet, and a bed of salvaged timber and sticks. Steam rising from the pot vented through a hole Zan had carved through a thinner section between branches of the tree. At one time rodents had decided the hollow was theirs to share, so Zan had gotten creative and covered the vent with a swatch of chain-mail he'd 'borrowed' from an old mannequin guarding the abandoned wing of the Coven, where once the Lightkeepers had held their assemblies. That had taken care of the critters and, naturally, no one had noticed the missing armor. The witches and their minions wouldn't have cared or known who to blame, anyway. Zan was smart, taking only what he needed and covering his tracks.
He sat on his bed, rehearsing what he'd say to the satyrs he would meet by the Blackwater gate in less than an hour. Once the elixir cooled enough to drink, he would only have to wait a few moments for the transformation to take effect.
He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, staving off the exhaustion that was his constant companion. Lately, he hadn’t been getting much sleep. How could he, when the witches held his sister captive and stole her powers for their own tainted use? The worst part was that the dragon clan, the proud and stubborn Yansu, believed Ayer was dead and would not come to her aid. Their own mother hadn't believed Zan when he'd told her about Ayer's plight, but that wasn't surprising. Zan's mother had cast him out as a youngling, as soon as she'd realized what he was and how his father had tricked her.
But Zan had his own plan. He always did.
The Gidaran satyrs were a nomadic tribe, staying in one place just long enough to sell their colorful wares alongside their equally colorful stories. Tales of treason, forbidden love, courtly intrigues, whatever they had heard on their travels that a desperate man might pay decent coin to know. Zan hoped they would have a story for him, something he could use to help Ayer. Somewhere he could travel, perhaps, to find the allies he had always hoped were out there. People who would believe and help. He didn't care how long it might take, he would go to the ends of the earth and back to save his sister. Ayer was the one person who had not looked down on him for being a bastard and a changeling. More than that, she loved him. She called him brother when all others had shunned him.
The last tendril of steam curled away from the cook pot as Zan watched, disappearing well before it reached the vent. He went to the stove and pulled the pot off the burner, stirring the bubbling liquid with a ladle until it was cool enough to pour into his clay drinking cup. He drank the elixir quickly, both because it was rank and made him gag, and because it would crust on the sides of the cup if he didn't. Then he might never get it clean.
"That was bloody terrible," he mumbled to himself, dropping the empty cup into one of two small buckets of boiled rainwater by the stove. Later on, if he remembered, he'd pull the cup out of the dirty bucket and rub it down with leaves. Once it was dry, he'd rinse it off a second time in the clean bucket. It was the best and only cleaning system he had access to.
The tips of his toes tingled, signaling the beginning of the transformation.
Zan stepped carefully over to his cabinet and pulled it open. A cracked mirror was mounted to the inside of the door, long enough that he could see his entire reflection if he stepped all the way back to his locked door. He peeled off his socks, then his pants and shirt, until he was naked. It wasn't for vanity's sake; he didn't want to damage his clothes, and he needed to ensure the transformation was a success. They weren't always.
The Gidaran were considered men, but their bone structure was nothing like an elf's. They were big and burly and furred from the waist down, with the legs and feet of a goat. A very large goat. As a changeling half-elf, Zan hadn't been graced with an imposing frame, although he was quick and lean. He was even smaller than his sister, which wasn't all that uncommon among the Yansu, especially among those who possessed a dragon form. Nonetheless, it rankled him sometimes.
The change washed over him in moments, unalterable once it had begun. The tingling in his toes gave way to their lengthening and stretching. Dark brown fur spread across his lower half. The muscles in his legs bent and twisted, becoming the legs of a satyr. The pain was exquisite, but Zan had spent years coaching himself to withstand the torture, and could now bear these more taxing transformations with only mild grunts of discomfort.
When his vision returned, he breathed easily. The change was a success. He had grown over a foot in height and had become several inches wider, every muscle in his body increased to massive proportions. He laughed at himself as he flexed in the mirror, then ran a hand through his hair, which was no longer black with auburn streaks but an abundance of rich brown curls. His skin had changed too, deepening from its usual olive tan to burnished gold with ample tufts of body hair.
Zan stepped closer, inspecting his eyes. They were brown, not terribly different from their natural amber color, but duller and hopefully less memorable.
He tapped one hoof on the bare dirt floor of his cottage–he hated to call it a hollow–and considered his nakedness. Many of the male satyrs he'd met didn't bother wearing loincloths, but Zan was not about to walk around Blackwater with his hairy goods hanging out. His new body was impressive, and big everywhere, but that was a step too far.
What could he wear, though? It wasn't as if he had loincloths stashed away.
With a heavy sigh, he took a blade to one of his three serviceable shirts. No one had better ever accuse him of lacking imagination!
He grumbled as he threaded the makeshift loincloth onto a thread of thick twine, then surveyed his creation in the mirror. Crude, but it would do.
"Okay. Time to party," he said, testing out his altered voice. It was sufficiently beastly.
He slung his leather coin pouch across his massive shoulders, frowning at his ridiculous reflection. "On second thought..." He peeled off the pouch and hung it over one shoulder. Easier access. "Much better,” he growled. “Now, it's time to party."