On the eastern edge of the village of Woodland, at the end of an unpaved road, lies a stone chapel of moderate size. It was old, almost as old as the castle in the village square. It was built many years ago by men and fae alike, and was once a gathering place for the defenders of the woodland realm in ancient days, and stood as a symbol of faith and hope to all that looked upon it. This now overlooked structure held powers within its walls. Powerful enchantments that guard against unholy and dark forces lay engrained in the stones and mortar of the church’s walls. All creatures of malicious intent feared to go there, for fear of earning the wrath of some higher power.
But, that was a long time ago. The village had grown, and men’s memories faded with time. In time, all power that had once been associated with the chapel had been lost to legend. To most modern-day people, it just sat as an uncomfortable reminder of their lack of religious zeal. Yet, the enchantment still held, and still held at bay forces of evil that long sought to destroy the Realm Between. Though, if one were to at this moment behold the interior of the chapel, one would not think it to be a shrine for good, rather the lair of some beast.
For so it appeared, as inside, benches, chairs, and tables were overturned, silver furnishings, bottles, and clothing lay strewn about the entire building. It seemed as if a whirlwind had passed through. Even then, the recently cleaned chapel held an ominous, unclean ambience. From a room at the back of a chapel emanated frightful moaning and groans, with the occasional sound of something being thrown, or glass breaking.
Lorcan paced back and forth frantically in his room, pulling at his hair, eyes wild and shocked, searching the room, occasionally pulling open and ransacking a drawer or chest against the wall. “This can’t be happening, this isn’t possible, it’s-what’s happening to-what am I?” Lorcan asked to the open air. He hurried over to his hand mirror, looking into it for the hundredth time, wincing in horror at what he saw. His skin had turned a deep, unnatural shade of green, sharp ears protruded from his hair, and it seemed that now, talons had begun to grow from the ends of his fingers. It wasn’t right. It felt…impure, otherworldly. This was not like an ordinary elf or goblin. It felt almost as if he had left normal life forms behind, degenerating into some creature of darkness.
Lorcan was in a deplorable situation, and he had no idea what to do. He had searched the chapel from top to bottom, desperately seeking anything that could help him. He found no herbs, no medicines, no magical trinket, nothing that could have cured, or caused his condition. In his current state of mind, he wasn’t even sure if he wasn’t mad, hallucinating the whole thing. He resigned himself to pacing his room in a panic, wondering, “What do I do?”
Should he go to a healer? No, anyone that saw him would surely think him to be some fiend or monster. A priest? He was a priest, and he couldn’t do anything. One of the fae? They would likely mock his condition, or kill him. Or both. Surely this was some manner of fae curse. Yes, it had to be. But, who had cursed him, and why? Was it Titania, or one of her court? Some demon or woodland spirit? What else was going to happen to him? He didn’t know. He had little experience with magic (those months after the monastery had been destroyed perhaps, but he wasn’t sure if that was even real), and he knew less of the magical inhabitance of Woodland. Was there anyone who could help him?
He stopped pacing suddenly, an idea in his mind. That night, at the fire, Kane had said something about a Chirurgeon in the Order. A member of the Order would be familiar with magic, or potions. Perhaps a Chirurgeon here would have seen such a thing before. But who had it been that the Captain had mentioned? Who…
Ul’vade! Kane had mentioned Ul’vade! Of course, Lorcan should go to him. Ul’vade had always been a good friend, and perhaps he would know what to do. He trusted that Norseman with his life. Lorcan ran from his room, and threw the door aside, bowling over Double and Puckleflup, who had been spying on him from the doorway. He practically flew through the chapel’s main hall, yanking the heavy front door open, and took off into the night.
As he reached the more populated parts of town, Lorcan paused. It was still late at night, but he couldn’t chance a villager spotting him from a window. He had to keep to the shadows. He slipped through the dark alleyways and hidden streets of the village with uncharacteristic ease. It seemed that whatever it was that transformed him, had made him more able to sneak around, and move freely at night. Even the faint starlight and shine from the moon was abhorrent to him. He almost welcomed the shadows that enveloped him, as he made the quickest possible route to Ul’vade’s home. It took some time, but eventually he came to Ul’vade’s door, confident that no one had seen him.
Lorcan reached for the iron knocker, trying to lift it, but cried out and recoiled as he touched it. The iron had turned white-hot for a moment, burning him at its touch. Covering his injured hand, Lorcan reached out with the other, firmly knocking on the wooden door. After a few painfully long seconds, Lorcan heard movement inside. With a holy, Lorcan realized he couldn’t wake Ul’vade with his horrific mask of a face. He would think some monster had come for him. He hurriedly pulled the hood of his cloak over his head, just as the door swung open.
Ul’vade stood there sleepily, one eye opened in a squint. Lorcan’s face burned with shame. This was a late hour, and he shouldn’t be troubling Ul’vade with this in the first place. Doubt and fear grew within him. He should never have gone to anyone about this. Everyone would know that he had become a monster. Surely, all would shun and hate him for what he had become. “Who are you, and what are you doing here at this hour?” Ul’vade’s grumpy voice interrupted Lorcan’s thoughts. “if this is something for the Order, please take it up with someone else in the morning. I’m quite indisposed at the moment.”
Lorcan would have grinned under other circumstances, but he was close to weeping for desperation. “Ul’vade, it’s me, Lorcan,” he hissed. “I need help. Please, something’s happening to me.”
Ul’vade opened both eyes in concern. He nodded once and stepped aside to let Lorcan in. The priest hurried inside and stood in the middle of the room, massaging his burned hand. “I’m sorry I’m coming to you like this, but I didn’t know where to go.”
Ul’vade held up his hand. “No, no, it’s fine. I’m sure that you wouldn’t come if it wasn’t important. But, you sound horrible, what’s wrong?”
Lorcan shifted from foot to foot. “I…I don’t know how to explain, it just happened tonight. Or, maybe yesterday afternoon, I can’t be sure, but, I’ve changed. I don’t know how to say it, but my skin, my eyes, may hands, they’re all wrong. And the knocker! It burned my hand! I don’t know why it would do that, and-“
“Woah, woah, Lorcan!” exclaimed Ul’vade. You aren’t making any sense man. Slow down, what’s wrong with your skin?”
Lorcan eyed his friend tentatively. Then, slowly, he raised his hands, grabbed his hood, and lowered it, revealing his demon-like face, pain and horror apparent in his eyes. Ul’vades own eyes widened in fear. He stepped backward slightly, then caught himself. He stepped closer to Lorcan to get a better look at him. “Lorcan, what happened? Did you stroll into the Fairy Glen? Did you offend one of the fae or something?”
Lorcan shook his head miserably. “I don’t know, that is, I don’t think so. I didn’t even know any before I left. The only two creatures I know are the goblins living in the chapel, and they don’t seem to possess any magic at all,” He sniffed. “Or intelligence, for that matter.”
Ul’vade shook his head, then scratched it absent-mindedly. “Lorcan, I don’t know what to tell you. We don’t really deal with magic ourselves. Rasputin might know what this is, but he’s gone off searching for ingredients for his experiments. Now, if this was an injury or sickness, I could do something for you, but it doesn’t seem like anything is physically wrong with you.” He held up his hand again at Lorcan’s indignant look. “That’s not what I meant. This is something magical, not physical. There’s only one person I know that would do something like this, and he-, no. I don’t know.”
Lorcan started forward eagerly. “What? Who could have done this? Can it be fixed?”
Ul’vade shrugged. “Listen, Lorcan, I don’t know if this is curable, I don’t even know what this (he gestured vaguely at all of Lorcan) is. I’m just saying, maybe, just maybe, I know who could do this, and might be able to reverse it. Even if it were possible, it would be at a price, likely a terrible one. I wouldn’t even go near his den, I-“
“Ul’vade,” firmly stated Lorcan, “I have to find a way to fix this. I will not live my life as some manner of monster. I will pay whatever price is necessary.”
Ul’vade sighed. “Many say that Lorcan, and all learn to regret it. But, I doubt I can dissuade you, though I regret even mentioning this. Very well, we’ll set out tomorrow to try to find a cure. Stay here tonight, I have an extra room you can use. Try to get some sleep, tomorrow will not be merciful. At first light, I bring you to Haute.”