Aeryalday, 3rd of Snowmelt, 3830 AR

Duchy of Keldor



            “By the gods I am so fucking bored!” cried Alan Veyd in his personal hell and, for the hundred millionth time, started to jump up and down in rage. “Bored, bored, bored, bored—” he sensed something, looked back and saw something different “—boredom alleviated.” He tilted his head to the right. “How the hell did you get in here?”
            Alan Veyd was just a bit surprised to see a young girl standing there. The dirty little thing just stared at him dead eyed from one side of the tiny island.
            “Now there’s a riveting response wrought with wit and grace!”
            Alan Veyd appeared around twenty, dark straight hair combed back, dark narrow eyes on a remarkably boring and average face, with a rather average body in one piece at least, but he didn’t actually feel like he was young or anything really because he was in actuality a ghost. His real body had a “little” accident a “few” too many times and was at present magically disintegrated in a space station that surrounded a flying interstellar walrus. His ghost body looked like he was going on the town with a dark blue long sleeved dress shirt, dark pants and black dress shoes which had, up until he got rich, not been the most successful attraction to women. After he did get rich he could get a supermodel wearing a clown mask and speedos.
            For a very long time he had been trapped on a stupid little island with a stupid palm tree with a stupid sun that never moved from direct above surrounded by a stupid ocean about a mile long that, when one swam across it, found themselves at the same stupid island. The floor of the damn was as flat as a swimming pool making it extra special stupid.
            The Pillars of Doran’s spiritual pocket dimension had him and while he had no true idea of how long he had been in there his gut told him that the “long ass time” he felt was years, possibly decades.
            “But that doesn’t bother me, oh no, because now I’ve got a mute teenage girl to keep me company!” He let out a woo-hoo and then groaned. “Why do I feel tired? I haven’t felt tired since I was, you know, alive.” He breathed again and felt really tired. “You need a bath, little girl.”
            She, not surprisingly, did not respond and stared straight ahead in a brain dead expression much like a girl realizing she was on the verge of being told that she was uglier than her rival by a boy she really likes.
            She was thirteen or so, filthy up and down, with slightly curly hair so covered in muck it stuck together and its color was impossible to detect surrounding a potentially beautifully face under all that crap. It was those eyes, albeit dead in expression, all bright, narrow and teal shining out of that dirty face like jewels that really caught his attention.
            She was covered in dark brown dirty rags like a typical street urchin.
            “Well, well, well, well, well, well,” said Veyd. “If it isn’t a completely random stranger who I have no connection to at all whatsoever who does not talk, looks like crap, and is staring at me like a sex doll which if you are it’s a mean trick because I’m not a pedophile, you’re absolutely drenched in shit, and I actually can’t get hard without a body anyway.
            “So what’s the deal here? Are we going to play a game? Shall we have a tea party with Nigel and Lady Florence? Want to play hide and go seek? Oh, how about clapping games? This is going to be the most fun ever! Of wait, you can’t, because you have no soul and even if you did I hate those games because I’m not five!” He made a pistol out of his fingers and pretended to blow his brains out.
            He felt his head go numb suddenly and the girl’s eyes dilate to normal.
            “Wait, what just happened? Why are you somehow focusing on me?” She was staring right him. “Did I actually sort of hurt myself? Was that the trick along?”
            He felt something, something real: something like hunger. She gave him a cocky smile just like the one he used to give. It was at that moment, at that exact second, that he saw the doorway.
            Her doorway out of the pillar. He knew it was hers because he had seen one before. It was a body. He had switched places with a woman once in that very hell, gave her back her own body so it wasn’t an actual loss, and when she left she left through a doorway.
            “Oh now you’re just being cocky because you’re young and alive.” He felt something draining from him, or filling him, or something. It felt weird, safe to say. “You’re fucking with me—” he opened and closed his right hand but it was her right hand that moved “—okay, that’s odd.” He made a fist and her hand closed. He lifted it up and gave himself the finger. It was a pretty vivid feeling as he could actually feel the dirt on the hand. “Cool.” Then he did a thumb’s up, a hang’s loose, the peace sign, and a go-for-it-horns with her forefinger and pinky. “Neat.” He made a gun and pretended to shoot his male form. “Bang, bang, bang,” he said as he pretended to be shot. “It’s more fun when you’re not alone.”
            The girl was giving him an identical grin.
            “Are you stealing my soul because, honestly, that would be kind of cool.” At that point it actually sounded pretty good: anything meant escape did no matter how horribly. Strangely, the hunger didn’t debate, and he felt so hungry he wanted to eat sand. He knew that could only come from one place. “Good gods, what the hell is wrong with you?” he cried and he pointed his finger at her. “You get yourself a goddamn sandwich this instant, young lady!”
            He felt her feet and her hands and her everything. It was painful, because she was starving and sick, but he loved it because he was miserable on that stupid island and was starving all sensation and to feel anything. He felt nothing for long that he once bashed his head into the tree as hard as he could ten thousand times without stopping. Didn’t feel a thing.
            The door was getting bigger and clearer.
            “I’m feeling pretty weak here,” he said. His head started to go numb and he remembered the weird dreams. “Wait a minute. I don’t dream because I don’t sleep.” He dreamed about the island. “You dreamed about the island!”
            The girl’s mouth was moving with his and her expression was his. The door was getting bigger, an open doorway into light, coming up over her and he felt, felt the warmth.
            “Holy shit,” he said with the girl’s voice. “I’m becoming you! I’m entering your body! I’m getting out of here and I’m going to be a dirty little girl!” He cried out in her voice, “Woo hoo! Fuck you, Pillars of Doran! I’m going on home now, you piece of shit pocket dimension!” The voice of that girl, probably never spoken before then, was high pitched, musical, lovely to hear. “All I have to do is accept a lifetime of gender identity confusion and I’m done!”
            He took a deep breath, pulling air into her lungs, and he found himself looking at an empty island and falling backward into light.
            “I’m out, bitches!” she cried and then everything went black.

*          *          *

            “How do you feel?” asked a woman’s voice.
            “That was weirdest thing that ever happened to me,” Veyd said with a laugh and then blinked and looked down a long, dark red table at an older woman wearing a mask that looked like a white rabbit. “Oh gods, no, not one of you and actually I feel pretty good.” Veyd grinned. “I feel awesome. I’ve had, what you might call, a less than happy year or ten but I’m better now.”
            Veyd felt extremely hungry but already the dreams of that island were fading. It was all a dream and if those were a dream maybe so was the things that happened afterward.
            The princess’s body…
            Alan Veyd sacrificing himself…
            “I’m as hungry as a hippo. If this is a dining table where is the food?”
            The woman, blond haired and borderline elderly if her hands and voice were an indication of anything, seemed to be grinning at him behind that mask. “Soon,” she said. “You are Alan Veyd, yes?”
            “Mayhap,” Veyd replied with a cocky smile. “Who is asking—”
            “Oh you are him alright!” she said happily.
            “Damn it! I never did have what it took to be a spy.” Veyd looked around to see that he, or was it she, was in some kind of massive dining hall. The table was in the center of it, the windows along the wall revealing endless darkness. The floor was red, the ceiling was a dark wood with golden flying buttresses, and then Veyd noticed there was rain pouring down on the outside windows followed by lightning. “Oh I’ve missed those—” there was a boom “—and thunder! I love thunder! It freaks me out!” She turned to the woman. “How did I get out and what’s with Sense of Humor here?”
            There was a man in a wolf mask behind her wearing all black looking like some kind of body builder. He stood like a statue behind Veyd, hands clasped together, staring darkly down at him ready to break every bone in Veyd’s body.
            “He is my associate.”
            “He seems really nice.”
            “What do you remember, Alan?” she asked.
            “Well,” said Veyd, “Where, oh where, do I begin? Is that an original?” She pointed at the painting of the Walrus with the frown. Corvo the Walrus was a living world, the material form of the god of imagination and dreams, with a world that looked suspiciously like a backpack on his back. Only one person in the history of time ever managed a photograph of Corvo not smiling, although the smile only appeared in photos afterward. A nuclear war had been going on, on his back at the time but painters, who like to see the gods as serious, somber beings always painted the walrus like he was in that photograph.
            With a very serious expression who takes life very seriously.
            “That is an original Mardoe, yes,” said the woman. “Those buttresses are real gold too.”
            “Ooh, this place is swank. I like it. You got class and did I pay for those buttresses and also, are you a giant? You seem huge. Not overweight, you have a great figure and all, but you seem so damn tall. Are you sexy mix of being of part ogre or something?”
            The woman was smiling behind that mask. “I remember you. You were always so—playful.”
            “I try,” said Veyd and smiled. It came easily, no metal jaw, and Veyd blinked.
            “Starting to figure it out, are you?”
            “Yeeeeeah…” Veyd looked up at her. “Who are you?”
            “You know who I represent and also that I can’t tell you.”
            Veyd looked around, saw the symbol of the wolf, rabbit and owl, and nodded. “Yep, just as I thought, the Order of Three. The ones I ‘donated’—” she made quotes with her fingers “—a million dollars to you guys in order to get that body back. You guys can be real bastards sometimes.” He made a fist on the table, blinked, opened and closed the hands there. “Different.”
            “Little bit. This doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense. I was trapped in the pillar. I was really trapped.”
            “Do you remember how you got trapped?”

            “I remember everything oddly. I easily remember you evil dipshits halted my collecting that very necessary body. Let’s see, how did that end? Oh yeah.” It ended with a tasteful statement from one of the working men on the satellite Walrus 5. He said—

*          *          *

            “you look like dog shit, pal,” said the man with the crate behind him.
            “I do,” Veyd replied with a smile that looked horrific with an artificial lower jaw. “It looks like my beauty regiment is not really working out. I should try yoga.” Alan winked with his one real eye. “Always nice to see a business man with a keen eye for the obvious.”
            “You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
            “I know I am!” Veyd replied with a robotic laugh. His tongue and voice box was robotic too so he actually sounded almost monstrous.
            He was sixty-four years old, his hands and feet fully cybernetic, along with one eye. His nose was gone, his tongue was artificial, his entire lower jaw was also artificial, not just repaired, but an actual metal jaw, and inside his body was an artificial heart, lung, both kidneys and liver. Most of what was cut off was cut off with a zero blade, an unhealing weapon with such perfection of magical runes along the blade that there was a “zero” chance of regenerating it magically, and as of such his limbs were in constant agony. He had tattooed magical runes around the stumps of his arms and legs to loosen the effect and let the cybernetics work with parts of the body affected by unhealing magic but while those tattooed runes helped a great deal, pain still followed.
            It also stopped the bleeding that went on forever at least on the limbs. The insides were still a constant agony but those had not been used with a zero blade and just hurt all the time.
            His nose was also zero bladed out and a little something else which he wouldn’t talk about even if he was drunk to the point of being so hammered he spoke only gibberish. As it was, the flesh around his nose actually blackened and created grotesque infections down his face over his mostly sliced off upper lip. That had been the end of his torture but someone in prison broke his jaw bad enough to have it removed as a pretext. Several of those infections required that he lance them every night and send pus and blood down his face. It reputedly smelled horrible but he could not smell anything and thus could not verify it.
            The man’s crinkling nose gave him the impression it was true.
            It wasn’t exactly the life a thrilling sex addicted drug fueled millionaire playboy he had once dreamed of being but, hey, it was still fun once in a while if running around as a living horror monster was fun.
            “Hey, do you have a cute sister or daughter?” The man’s eyes widened. “That was a joke. Funny?” His eyes narrowed. “I’ve still got it,” he said with a laugh.
            Once, over thirty years ago, Alan had been a reasonably attractive, if money made someone attractive, dashing young man with a slick look and the gift of gambling, a fortune with his work on the nearby asteroid fields and a powerful gift in building machines which they called “gadgeteering.” He came from the mean streets of Tervo Moon in the Tytos Cluster, the third of five grouping of worlds on planets and moons, looking to Corvo for adventure, a few laughs and maybe a little acceptance among the exiles of the kingdom of Doran there.
            Things had been going just fine until that awkward hurdle when he got cut to pieces from a friend of his after being framed by his father figure, Archibald Brotain, but that was another story.
            There was no point in living in the past just because it gets a man permanently maimed, chopped to pieces, thrown in jail to get his jaw and tongue ripped off, only to be found out innocent after twenty years. No point at all…
            “Remember,” said Veyd, “I’m just some weirdo from the Tytos Cluster.” He tried to flip him a blue disc, half the size of maybe a compact disc, worth a hundred of the gray versions, but it only fell to the ground because his hands were made of metal and they only worked at thirty percent the capability a normal non-unhealed amputee would have. “Shit pants,” he said.
            The man grabbed it from the ground, saluted him with it, and said, “I had a job for a tall, average looking, dark haired, blue eyed, kind of weird guy from the Tytos Cluster. Got it.”
            “Right-o,” said Veyd.
            “The Order respects your donation.”
            “Yay for charity.” The man smiled and was gone and locked the door behind him. “Fuuuuuuuuuck,” he groaned. How the Order of Three knew he what he was doing Veyd could not say but it sure was annoying having to give a million dollars to get back the spiritless body Queen Elliah had finally accepted for her daughter.
            Veyd used some chronolation magic from a band over his left arm to pull off the top of the crate and looked into the front of the pod. He pressed a button at the center, watched its outside open, and looked at the girl being supported by tubes and liquids within.
            It was the spiritless body of a young woman beaten to death.
            Veyd was no doctor but he was reasonably sure her face had been broken more than once. Her nose was badly broken, her jaw and cheekbones were deformed from breaking, several teeth were gone probably from being knocked out, her legs and arms had the look of being badly healed and thus knobby, and she looked incredibly malnourished look besides, all skin and bones, and her skin had an ugly pallid to it.
            She was wearing an ugly white tank top, somewhat dirty, and a pair of shorts.
            She was not a whore, she was still a virgin point of fact, one of the queen’s stipulations. Just a girl aged seventeen beaten by a man who wanted to rape her and knocked into a coma where, after time, her spirit separated from her body and could not return.
            “Gods, he really went to town on you,” he said. He knew what she was supposed to look like, she was an incredibly beautiful, blond young woman with vibrant tropic blue eyes, which were still vibrant even staring dead head.
            Archibald Brotain brought Veyd to this. He had found the other body, the correct body for the ritual, and out of spite he burned it to ash and threw it out an airlock. This poor girl was an imperfect solution to the overall plan but at least its new owner would be safe and happy.
            Veyd nodded and, in a rare moment of somberness, said, “Let’s begin.” He shut the coffin with another press to the button, took the body to his secret warehouse and started the ritual that would begin with him fixing that body for the Lilia, the Princess of Doran and would end with him switching places with Kalea Forne, a sorceress trapped in the Pillars of Doran.
            Evidently, on some stupid island with one stupid palm tree.

*          *          *

            “And now you’re here,” said the woman. “You know, a girl, very close to Queen Elliah, named after the princess, Lilia, actually married a duke who has rights to a large property west the Doran River which has recently been taken back from the Gray Queen. She’s given birth to two daughters and three sons since she appeared out of nowhere with a striking resemblance to the girl in that coffin.”
            “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Veyd. “I’m just some yahoo from Tytos. What would I know about the Gray Queen?”
            The Gray Queen, Kalea Forne’s elder sister and the daughter of the court magician in Queen Elliah’s exile court, was Cydra Forne: the usurper Queen of Doran. Evidently, the curse, while not broken, was affecting her and she was losing ground.
            “I’m so happy for this lovely Lilia who I very much know nothing about. Biff, baff, giraffe!!”
            “I know what that body looked like healthy, Alan. For years you managed to convince everyone that the queen loathed you but you were her shadow supporter. I’m certain still receives millions from your asteroids although I can’t prove it and she funds her military factions through that. It was your idea to constantly have her refuse you positions and openly humiliate you.”
            Veyd shrugged and said, “It got the job done so well even you didn’t suspect the truth but it kind of backfired.” Archibald Brotain had been a father-figure and had adopted him with some other street guys back when he was a kid and, for some great amount of time, Veyd had been engaged to his daughter due to his success in the asteroid field known as the Short Belt. Veyd did not fully understand before or after the exact reason why he had been betrayed by him but he suspected Veyd’s making millions upon millions of gray discs, the currency of Corvo and many other countries and worlds, had been the reason behind it.
            Whatever the reason was Veyd had been accused, and convicted, without evidence, of murdering the eldest son and that was when Brenno of Doran, his closest friend, cut him to pieces with a zero blade. Veyd understood his reason and that was because he wanted to marry the daughter who would, after her father took control of his asteroids, become very rich.
            “The best part is that Archibald Brotain II was still alive and they didn’t get shit from the Short Belt. They became the Veyd Ring and broke from everyone but me! I was its goddamn king for ten years!”
            “You don’t break easily, do you?”
            “I’m all cured now. What’s to be broken up about?”
            “Not even a little bit. Even after they cut off—”
            “Lalalalalalala!” Veyd said quickly. “It’s in the past.”
            “I think it’s time, Alan Veyd, to look at yourself,” said the woman.
            She looked down at the dirty hands and saw they were kind of shapeless. They were a child’s hands perfectly clean and manicured.
            Veyd reached up, ran those hands through the hair on top of Veyd head, and felt the thick, strong hair there that reached down past the neck and shoulders. Those hands moved down over the smooth flawless skin of her face ending at the very top of a pretty, dark purple dress at the base of her neck.
            “You want me to be a crossdresser, do you?” she said that but she thought she knew the truth better than that.
            The woman was grinning. “No!” she squeaked happily. “No I don’t!”
            Veyd put her hands between her legs, found exactly what one would expect there for a very young girl, and then dropped forward almost by gravity and hit the table with a loud clunk.
            “Alan?” asked the rabbit woman after a moment.
            “That fucking gypsy,” said Veyd into the table.
            “Are you alright?” asked the woman.
            “I see.”
            Veyd heard the sound of something placed beside her and, without lifting her head, reached over and grabbed it. She then lifted her head, flipped the object around, and looked into a mirror.
            The girl from the island cleaned was as beautiful as Kalea Forne had been at her age, probably the most beautiful woman of the court and a magician besides. Veyd now had teal eyes, auburn hair that curled just a bit but not too much, full pouting lips, a perfect nose, perfect, straight white teeth and just overwhelmingly beautiful features. She was, however, only a child and very skinny.
            “Where the hell is the girl who owns this body?”
            “You are so selfless, Alan.”
            “Not true,” she said. “I once bought a cherry red sports car with petty cash just to get laid once. It worked so well I kept using it for that reason. Women are shallow.” She blinked and, in the rare moment of sincere somberness, asked softly, “Who was she?”
            “She was you. She never had a soul, none except yours. She is your reincarnation and it was not easy for me to find her.”
            “That’s right,” said Veyd. “People born without spirits in Doran on the Walrus because of the disjointedness of that whole monstrous cloud of murderous unnatural death magic known as the Pillars of Doran created by the Gray Queen and her body stealing bitch Wyienne.”
            “Less now than before but yes. She was born without a soul and you were a soul without a body. Now you’ve completed each other.”
            “I can really get used to this,” said Veyd and she narrowed her eyes and smiled. “Mama’s got a brand new bag.”
            “I like that,” said the woman in the rabbit mask. “I suppose you do too.” She seemed to be smiling again. “You have taken her tight, nubile flesh, with all her youth and beauty and all the future years of her life, now to do with as you please with whomever you please.”
            Veyd was making funny faces at herself in the mirror. “Was there any way you could have possibly phrased that without sounding so unbelievably sinister?”
            She laughed.
            “Also, should I be alarmed that my memories are not matching this new body?” Veyd actually was rather alarmed by that. She was not supposed to remember anything past thirteen.
            The old magician saying was true in her experience. “A human being could be only be young once but they could be young once a thousand times,” it went. It meant that making one’s self younger came at the price of any memory or knowledge passed the point they became young again making them live their life only once but a potentially infinite amount of times. To mismatch the spirit from the body and keep those memories required the use of the very same unnatural magic that Cydra and Wyienne used so monstrously.
            “No,” said the rabbit woman. “You have been blessed by Corvo. You’re part divine now and can remember passed the years of your body.” She seemed to be smiling behind that ivory mask yet again. “I checked, Veyd. I had you tossed into a naturalization circle before you woke up and so powerful it was it would have killed Wyienne should she have been it. Once you passed, I had some of my initiates clean you.”
            “Cool.” Veyd looked at her teeth, grinned widely, and then made a frowny face. “I’m not getting bored of this the way I thought I would.”
            “You are a very cute little thing,” said the woman. “You will make a wonderful young lady.” She had a thoughtful bodily expression. “I think I’m going to call you Brenda.”
            “Die in a fire,” Veyd replied and lowered the mirror before looking at her. “Oh gods, you’re serious.”
            “I am, Brenda.”
            Veyd groaned. “We’ll work on that,” she replied and then asked, “What now?” she asked. “Food? Maybe a bed because I’m tired and-oh my gods you are terrifying!” She jerked at the sight of wolf faced man as he crept closer and looked gigantic and terrifying.
            “Food and bed, yes, but more is needed.”
            “More?” It seemed to only dawn just then at that exact moment that Veyd was now a helpless young girl surrounded by a secret and dangerous organization who specialized in espionage and assassination. It wasn’t going to be easy getting away from them. “By more you mean—”
            The woman in the mask seemed to be grinning although Veyd could not see it. “What indeed,” she replied and she gestured to Veyd’s left.
            Veyd looked over at the computer table uncertainly, picked it up and looked at the screen with its loads of information and then let out a groan. “Oh no!”
            “Oh yes!” she cried. “You were once a great businessman.”
            “But I’m a child now! I need to go out and be young and do girl things.” Anything for the love of gods but keeping up this never ending chore dispenser! her mind screamed.
            “Like what?” asked the rabbit faced woman. “What girl things?”
            “Uhhhhh—” the woman was actually looking for a response “—dress in cute clothing? Talk about boys?” The woman’s back straightened. “Play video games?”
            The rabbit faced woman leaned back. “Enjoy your life as our new financier.”
            “Oh—” she groaned “—for the love of the—



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