A Mage and Her Panda

This is technically my fourth commission; the third one was private, as per request. So, that one obviously won’t get posted…ever.

However, this one will. I believe this is also the first commission where nothing overtly sexual happens; just a college kid who likes red pandas and ends up becoming one for his birthday. I’ll admit, this one could’ve gone a bit longer, but I like what I have so far. I might pull some ideas out of this one at some point; who knows?

Anyway, enjoy!


He had a bad day yesterday and needed something to make him feel better. He planned a full-day for his birthday with his parents and friends weeks in advance. Everyone said “I’m not sure” or “We’ll see,” but no one gave him a solid answer. Rex, as he is known by his friends, called and texted everyone in hope to solidify something. With his birthday falling on a Saturday, the morning promising a chilled but beautiful Fall day, it’d be a perfect day to see them.

Rex thought about today’s plans. He would have lunch and go around town with his parents, then have his friends come over to hang out or go out somewhere for the evening. He kept checking his phone for any replies or calls; he either got no reply or more maybes.

He sat down on his recliner, still looking at his phone. *Sigh* “Come on guys, you were never this indecisive before,” he moped, tossing the phone on the table next to him. “So why now?”

Just then, he heard the doorbell ring and then a knock at his door.

“Oh thank God!” He leapt out of the recliner and ran to the door.

Quickly unlocking it and throwing it open, the adrenaline rush subsided upon seeing his visitor. A short, elderly woman with a slightly darker skin tone than him smiled when he opened the door. He looked at her quizzically; he didn’t know if she was homeless or an old farmer’s wife who got lost. She only wore a faded, green and black flannel shirt, loose, faded jeans, and brown hiking shoes that had a noticeable hole in one, and the sole removing itself from the other near the toe. Her clothes were stained with dirt or a few splotches of various colors, which he assumed was paint. He had to admit, however, she seemed to age well. She had subtle, but noticeable wrinkles on her face. Her hair was black, shoulder-length, with quite a few greying streaks throughout, and frizzed wherever it pleased.

The most peculiar thing Rex noticed about the strange woman was the shiny, silver necklace around her aged neck; despite being kept under her shirt, its shine popped out among the dirt and reflected off the morning sun. He also noticed she carried a filled, tan, leather handbag slung over her shoulder. The old woman kept her attention on Rex, as if she didn’t realize strap of the handbag pinching her shoulder some.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“Actually, deary, I can help you,” she said, pointing up at him. She had a slight Hispanic accent when she spoke.

“Really.”

“You betcha.”

“Riiight, I’m just gonna…” He began to close the door on her, but she quickly pushed it back open.

She gave a light smack on his forehead. “That’s not how you should act towards your elders young man!”

He rubbed his forehead. “Ugh, geeze lady. I was just askin’.” He put a hand on the door, waiting for the right moment to close it on her. “I mean, it’s not every day I get some stranger at my door who’s not the mailman, the UPS guy, or Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to sell Jesus to me.”

“Well this is important; so listen.”

He huffed. “Fine, whatever.”

“Now, to answer your first question, my name is María.” Her accent showed when she said her name. “I go around town here offering a, erm, ‘special’ kind of service. Whether it’s requested by the clients themselves or a close friend or relative of the client. I usually make sure to inform my clients of my arrival. However, your case is different. Your friends requested I come over and give you a special gift, specifically for today, your birthday, yes?”

He nodded.

“Good, good. They gave me your address and wanted it to be a surprise. So, surprise!” She waved her arms in the air, revealing how loose her flannel fitted on her.

“Ok, ok. I’ll ‘believe’ you, for now.” He patted her on the shoulder, the one without the bag strapped over it. “So…what is this ‘special gift’ my friends want to give me that only you can provide?”

“I’m glad you asked! They told me you’re fond of red pandas, correct?”

“Yyyyeeesss?”

“I bet you’ve always wanted to be one too.” She gave him a smug grin.

“Yeah, but, not permanently.”

“What if I told you I can make that come true?”

“Turn me into a red panda?” he asked bluntly.

She nodded.

Rex stared at her for a moment and began to slam the door on María’s face again.

She quickly shot her hand at his midsection, holding him in place without even touching him.

He could feel her hold around his abdomen, and soon found himself floating backwards into the foyer. “Who the hell are you? Some kind of witch?”

“You could say that.” She quickly walked in and shut the door behind her. Again, Rex noticed she didn’t touch the door handle or even looked behind. “Believe me, you’re not the first to be surprised at my presence. Trust me, I think you’ll like this once the transformation is complete.” She then started chanting a phrase over and over. Rex thought it was just Spanish, though it didn’t sound like any language of this world.

He felt an alien energy flowing through his entire body. Patches of red, orange, and black fur started growing on his chest, eventually consuming his entire torso. The invasive fur began to cover his limbs and neck. His whole body began to shrink as his limbs became shorter, his hands and feet turning into tiny paws. His clothes fell to the floor in a heap as he shrunk. He began to scream at the pain of his skeletal structure changing form, along with the rearrangement of his internal organs. His head seared with pain as it changed into a different shape: nose and mouth changing into a short, stout muzzle, skull taking the form of a red panda’s, ears shrinking into his head then reappearing higher up as short, triangular dishes, and his hair shrank into his skull. He felt whiskers growing on the sides of his new nose, and his teeth shrank and took on a more canid shape. His tongue and eyes shrank to fit his new mouth and eye sockets. The fur consumed his head as it took on its new form, giving him appropriate markings around his new face. He felt more bones and skin being added to his tail bone. Red and orange striped fur covered his new tail as it grew, eventually poofing out. He still felt María’s magical hold on him, but could only make tiny squeaking sounds in protest.

She kept a hold on him in her magical grip. “Aw, now don’t you look adorable,” she cooed. “Now, first off, can you hear me?”

He kept squirming in the air.

“Rex!”

He stopped and looked at her with beady, black eyes, still hovering in the air from her magic.

“Your friends said I should call you that. Anyway, nod if you can hear me?”

He nodded.

“Nod if you can understand what I’m saying.”

He nodded again.

“Muy bien. I’ll let you down, but you have to promise me you won’t run off before I explain more about this spell.”

He looked around his living room, then back at her, then at the ground below him. He gave her a small squeak and a look of worry in his eyes.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes.'” She gently lowered him until his paws touched the floor, then released her hold.

He began to run off but stopped before he left the foyer. Sitting on his haunches, he looked at the woman.

She exhaled, calming herself. “Ok, so, about this spell.” She crouched just above the top of his head and looked him right in the eye. “This will only last for about, say, around sunset. It’s about,” she paused to look at a nearby clock, “a quarter ’til 10 right now, so that gives you a few hours to run around and be a red panda. I’ll keep an eye on you so you won’t get into trouble. I know we didn’t start off on the best terms but…you have to trust me right now.” She reached out and petted his head. Though hesitant at first, Rex eventually leaned in at her touch and closed his eyes, grinning. “I care about you…more than you realize.”

He tilted his head at her last statement as she removed her hand from his head.

She made a gesture as if presenting his house for the first time to him. “Go on. Take a look around.”

He stood on his stubby legs and darted into the living room. María took a few steps forward, enough to stay out of his way, but to also watch him.

Rex ran to the middle of the living room, constantly turning around, taking in his new perspective. Everything looked much bigger, taller, and at times, intimidating.

Ok, I don’t care if I know this old bag or not. This. Is. Awesome!

He even noticed features or blemishes on his furniture in the room that he hadn’t noticed before, or did and never bothered to fix them, one of which being the torn upholstery all along the underside of his recliner. Dammit Misha. I got you that scratching post for a reason. He sniffed at the tears out of curiosity. As a human, he couldn’t smell his tabby too well unless she was right near his nose, not that he’d want to. Now with his slightly enhanced senses, he could detect her scent from her destruction. You still smell like maple syrup for some reason.

He kept to the ground, occasionally stopping to find any curious scents or sounds. He inspected the couch, the entertainment center, the shelves for his DVD and video game collections, the end tables, and the coffee table. Anytime he stopped, he sniffed at the dry air in the room or rotated his ears to pick up any sounds that may indicate a threat.

Where was she anyway? He frantically looked around the living room for his cat.

No sign of her.

Eh. She probably ran off when she saw María. Still… Rex went over to the couch and climbed up with his claws, immediately regretting it when he realized he further damaged the upholstery. Dammit. Once on the top of the couch, he darted back and forth with his nimble but stubby legs, keeping an eye out for Misha.

María walked over from the foyer to the recliner, set her bag in front of her, and sat down. She pulled out an old, dark green, hardcover book that was as thick as most of Rex’s textbooks. It had a gold trim with intricate patterns on the corners on the cover, gothic-era text of a language he didn’t recognize, and a gold, butterfly-like image centered on the front cover. He could easily smell its age even before she opened it.

She looked at him and noticed Rex eying the book with curiosity. “Go on and explore; you have all day you know. I’ll be right here, ok deary?”

He nearly fell on the cushions trying to get down from the couch, unintentionally performing a somersault landing him close to the edge. He tried to be nimbler getting down this time, but still fell, letting out a tiny chitter when he hit the ground.

María turned her head towards him, concerned. “You ok?”

He sprang up back on his feet.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes.'”

Damn that hurt.

Passing the couch, under the coffee table, and past the other end table, he darted to the kitchen. His claws tapped on the hard wood floor as soon as he left the carpeted area of the living room. Relieved that he wasn’t scratching up the floor, he stuck his nose in the air, taking in all the scents he wouldn’t quite notice otherwise as a human. Everything from his food, beverages, anything he left on the kitchen table or countertops, he smelled nearly every individual scent, especially if it was something sweet.

He darted from one end of the kitchen to the other along the floor, taking in everything at ground level. Everywhere he looked, it’s as if he was surrounded by doors that lead to either food, dishes, or bottles of deadly liquids. The pantry door now looked like a tall, rectangular portal, with a shiny, brass lever way out of his reach. His refrigerator now looked like a white, monolithic box. The low, growling hum of its circuitry keeping its contents chilled was loud enough that he could feel it steadily vibrate the wooden floor.

He then felt the growling of his stomach and began to feel tired, but not quite enough to fall asleep. Natural instincts kicked in and he sniffed high and low; he even tried to climb up the wooden portal or white monolith to get at whatever was inside.

María noticed the scratching noises coming from the kitchen and decided to investigate. She saw Rex trying to climb up the pantry door, though he was only hopping on his hind legs, scratching at it.

She bent down to his level, groaning as her aged knees had difficulty bending.

Rex stopped clawing at the door and looked at her.

“Hungry? I don’t think you’ll find any bamboo in there.” She stood back up. “Wait here. I came prepared.” She walked into the living room.

Rex’s ears twitched at the sound of rustling from the other room, eventually followed by padded footsteps against the carpet heading towards him.

María bent down and groaned again. “Here you go.” She held out her hand with a couple bamboo shoots.

He took one of the shoots with his forepaws, not once hesitating. Sitting on his haunches, he began to chew off the green leaves, taking time to grind them with his new teeth.

The old lady smiled, then giggled, putting a hand up to her mouth as she did so. “You should see yourself right now.”

He was too focused taking in the strange taste and stringy texture to pay attention to her comment. Why does this taste so good to me? I’ve never had bamboo in my life. This is so weird! Amazing, but weird!

Soon, most of the bamboo shoot was gone and he left the remains on the floor. His belly full, for now, and ready to explore some more, though the consistent rush of excitement kept him more than energized.

María picked up his leftovers and put them in her bag. Rather than going back to the recliner, she decided to stay in the entry way between the kitchen and the living room. Seeing her grandson filled her with so much joy that she wanted to tell him who she really was, right then and there. Even though he was in animal form, she figured he seemed to understand her clearly whenever she spoke. She decided to wait until the effects of the spell wore off to explain to him face-to-face, as humans. For now, she enjoyed seeing her grandson explore his dining area, struggling to climb up on a chair with his tiny legs. She couldn’t help but giggle at his hind legs wobbling underneath as he dangled from the chair.

She walked over and grabbed his midsection, pulling him off the chair.

Rex flailed and squeaked, finding he’s being lifted in the air again, but he immediately stopped once she placed him on the table. He walked its perimeter, then stopped once he returned to her.

“I take it you wanted to get up here?”

He looked at her, then chittered. He padded over toward the edge of the table and bobbed his head side to side, trying to look past her.

She moved out of his field of view, allowing him to look at his whole kitchen from his new perspective.

Everything looked the same as he usually left it, the white fridge to his right up against the wall, the countertop running all along the left wall to the corner and up to the stove, the cabinets above the whole counter space, his silver sink filled with dirty dishes, and the vast, open floor space in the middle of it all. It all looked much bigger to him now. The counter tops were at eye-level with him, and the floor looked much farther down and bigger to him than when he was a human. When he looked down towards the floor from the table, he was hesitant to just jump down to see what it all looked like from the ground. He looked at María, then back to the floor, then at María.

“Too scared to jump down eh?”

He twittered.

She giggled. “Well, you’re not a cat after all. I don’t think red pandas always land on their feet.”

She grabbed him, gentler this time. Rex made no protest. She set him on the ground and he darted away from the dining area some.

When he was satisfied with his exploration of the kitchen, he began to scratch and climb the wooden portal again. María gave him another bamboo shoot, which he gobbled up in no time flat, still enjoying its unique taste and texture. Just like before, she picked up the remains and placed them in her bag as Rex darted off back into the living room.

Before she could catch up to him, though, she heard a loud hiss and a screech coming from where Rex ran off. She could only walk as quick as her aged legs could muster towards the sound. Right where the living room stopped and a small hallway began, she found Rex backing away from a green-grey, stripped tabby cat, hissing at him with its tail fur on end, ready to strike. Rex then stood upright on his hind legs and put his forepaws in the air, claws bared, and exposed his small, sharp teeth.

Crap! He never got a chance to tell me he had another animal in the house. She panicked, trying to figure out how to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. She put herself between the two animals and managed to shoo the cat into the bathroom. Noticing that the litter box was in there, she closed the door on it.

Immediately after, the cat pawed and mewled at the door, wanting to get out.

“I’ll let you out when your owner turns back into a human. Now you behave in there.”

Rex lowered himself back on all fours, but still looked around and twitched his ears for any more signs of danger.

“You’ll be ok dearie.” She reached down to pet him, trying to calm him.

He closed his eyes at the touch of her soft, gentle hands petting the top of his head and back. As she did so, he raised his head and back upward as her hand stroked across each. He opened his eyes back up once she stopped, then made his way to his bedroom, claws tapping against the hardwood floor of the hallway and his room.

Just like the other rooms of his house, his bedroom, the most familiar to him, still felt different. All the furniture was much simpler in appearance, save for his desk made of silver metal supports and black, wooden shelves. He could easily see all the dust bunnies and any crumbs of food that made their way underneath his bed. His desk looked like a monolith of technology with his dual monitors, custom-built desktop with a sleek cover and blue LEDs framing it, and he could see the light blue glow of the LEDs coming from his keyboard and mouse. He noticed his bookshelf on the far corner, two shelves filled with textbooks, Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, sketchbooks, and various knick-knacks. He went in further to investigate.

He scurried under the bed, just to see what it was like down there, and was easily able to wiggle his new body underneath the frame. Immediately he made a tiny sneeze at all the dust and hair. Trying to ignore it all, he peered around, seeing the small colony of dust bunnies that gathered underneath where he slept. I have got to vacuum under here at some point, he thought as he wiggled his way out.

He then went over to his leather chair in front of his desk. He jumped and grabbed the edge with his claws, struggling to pull himself up until he felt María’s hand underneath his rump, aiding him. He looked around at the all-too familiar spot he sat in most of the time when he’s home, either gaming, browsing social media, browsing art on FurAffinity, or working on homework. Curious, he found he was able to put his forepaws on his keyboard and mouse, but he was unable to view the monitors from his vantage point. He could hardly see the knick-knacks, figures, and photos on the top shelf of his desk; he knew what was up there, of course, but was unable to make out the details.

Deciding he couldn’t go much further, he tried wiggling himself enough so the chair would spin on its own to face the bookshelf. It only moved side to side in response. He then slipped underneath the arm rest and tried to jump down on his own this time, but he landed on his face again. He screeched as he flipped himself over onto his feet, shaking off the pain in his head.

He went over to the bookshelf, backing up far enough so he could see the titles on the spines of his books on the top shelf, then sat down. As he turned his head to read the titles, memories of his college days flashed by; while he graduated only a few months ago, that chapter of his life felt like yesterday as he scanned the books on the shelf. One end began with various textbooks on filmmaking, script writing, and directing; some he kept as personal references, some he simply never had the chance to sell. The assortment of textbooks seemed to blend into the few Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks he kept. While they were roughly the same height as some of his larger textbooks, their covers were more ornate and decorative, complete with colorful, painted images on their covers. The personal reference section broke once he got to his sketchbooks, all of which were spiral-bound. Some were well-used, as their wired bindings began to come loose near the top or bottom. There wasn’t much on the bottom shelf, though the two, grey speakers with a blanket of dust on top reminded him about the stereo system they go with. Where the hell is that thing anyway? He then remembered his box of novels and manga he meant to shelve at some point. He made a mental note to get to those when the spell will wear off and María would be gone.

Once satisfied, he stood back on all fours and padded his way out of his bedroom, back to the living room. As soon as he began to pass the bathroom door, he heard his cat, Misha, still pawing and mewling on the other side of it. He moved as far as he could from the door as María approached it.

“Is señorita going to behave?” she asked through the door.

Misha stopped pawing and meowed in response.

She waved at Rex to step back, to which he complied, then opened the door.

The tabby just sat there on her haunches, looking up at the old woman, then straight ahead past her legs. She then stood up and padded over to Rex’s bedroom, seemingly unaware of the strange, red invader to her domain.

Not wanting to risk another scary encounter with his own cat, Rex figured he’d check out his backyard. Running and hopping on his stubby legs back through the living room, past the door which led to the garage, past the dining table in the kitchen, he reached the back of his home.

María patiently followed his trail, walking at a slow but steady pace. “These old bones have gotten slower kiddo.”

He stepped aside once she reached the back door to open it for him. Once she did, he darted out into his back yard onto the small, brick patio just outside the door. His eyes widened at the vast expanse of his yard from his new perspective. The grass looked more like a thick forest of greens and browns, the tops of the blades just past eye-level. The yard wasn’t fenced in, so he made sure not to wander too far towards his neighbors’ yards.

This…is…awesome! he thought as he scampered about among the grass, But yet…I don’t feel safe while grounded. He stretched out his neck to look beyond the grass, surveying the familiar landscape. He noticed the tall maple tree that was just outside his bedroom window. Perfect.

Once he got to the base of the tree, he used his sharp claws and short legs to scurry up to the nearest branch. He tip-toed along the branch, surveying his yard, the neighbors’ yards, and found he could easily jump onto his roof if he wanted. He then looked down and found María, who simply looked back at him and smiled.

His stomach started growling. Ugh, hungry again. But I don’t want to rely on María. Hmmm…

He looked around in the tree, noticing some of the maple leaves were still green and some of the bark on the tree smelled delicious. He scampered toward the trunk on his branch, biting off a piece of a leaf that hadn’t withered yet. Holy crap, this tastes good. The leaf had an alien taste, like mint but not as strong and a tad bit bland. He bit off another piece, then another, then another, until it was nearly gone. He managed to find another green leaf and began to chew on that too. Eventually, the woody smell of the bark on the branch and trunk became appealing to him. He sniffed along his branch and the trunk to find the perfect area. Once he did, he used his claws to rip and tear a tiny piece off the tree and nibbled on it. Even better. He chewed and chewed, taking in the woody taste, mixed with a slight hint of the familiar taste of maple syrup, but not as sweet. He tossed the remains onto the ground when he finished.

After his meal, he felt his eyes droop. Having a hard time trying to stay awake, he gave in to his smaller body slowing down and wanting sleep. It wasn’t all that warm outside, so he decided on curling up closer to the trunk. He lowered his body in the crevice made by the branch, tucked his legs inward, and wrapped his tail over his face. His eyes slowly closed, the last thing he could see was a fuzzy, red and orange mass that was his tail.

I know it may not be for the best, but I wouldn’t mind staying this way forever.

He soon fell asleep in the tree.

* * *

A couple hours pass. Rex was still half-asleep in the tree’s crevice when he heard a faint, familiar voice calling his name.

“Rex…Rex, wake up, you lazy panda!”

He stirred and poked his head out from under his tail at the noise. He looked down and saw María beneath the branch.

“Just thought I’d let you know that your time is almost up. You could stay out here if you’d like, but I don’t think your neighbors would be too fond of seeing you naked when you change back.”

Oh…right. He uncurled himself and began to climb down slowly, trying to maintain his grip on the trunk. Thinking back to what María told him, he decided to go straight to the back door.

As soon as he reached the patio, though, he heard a loud *bark bark* coming from one of his neighbor’s yards. He stopped dead in his tracks and lifted his head and found the source: a dark yellow, long-haired Golden Retriever.

Its barking came from the yard closest to him, the property line rubbed right up against his patio. Neither his yard nor the neighbor’s were fenced in, but their dog was tied up, thankfully.

He stood there, frozen, unsure of what to do next. He lowered himself and crept backwards out of its view, hoping it would think he left.

It didn’t work. The Golden kept barking at the weird, red and orange fuzzy thing it found.

To scare the dog off, Rex darted forward to the edge of his yard and stood on his hind legs, claws and teeth bared. He only made a drawn-out squeak: to him, though, he thought of it as a roar.

The dog went quiet, then darted forward and darted back, then forward and then back, panting as it did so.

Rex wasn’t sure if it was excited or confused, but he quickly made a run for the back door, where María waited for him. She opened it and followed him in. The neighbor’s dog kept running around, confused and excited, extending the full length of the cord it was tied to.

Both Rex and María went to the living room after they went inside, close to the front door.

She knelt to his level again, wincing at the slight pain in her knees as she did so. “Now Rex, you have about…a minute left.” She moved her right wrist as if she was checking a watch. “The spell will wear off and you’ll change back into a human. And yes, you’ll be naked; you weren’t wearing anything as a red panda you know.”

He nodded, though felt uneasy at the thought of an old lady he never knew see him naked.

She stood up and checked her wrist. “About thirty seconds now.”

He backed into an open area of the living room, giving himself some space knowing the transformation process will be painful.

“Ten seconds. I’ll make sure to not look until you get some clothes on, ok?”

He nodded. He kept his breathing steady, waiting for the effects of the spell to leave his body and change him back again. Ok…just stay calm. Whatever happens, don’t freak out; just let the spell do its thing and everything will be fine.

“Five seconds. Four. Three. Two…” She pointed straight at Rex.

Rex closed his eyes, waiting for the transformation spell to change him back again.

He waited a moment, but nothing happened immediately. Maybe there’s a delay.

He waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing happened.

María steadied her breath, trying not to panic. She rubbed her hands over her face, pulling them down in frustration. She cursed in that Spanish-like language. I hope he’s not angry with me. She reached in her bag and pulled out her dark green book with the golden butterfly on the cover. She flipped through it, trying to find the right page, then towards the back of the book, then somewhere in the middle.

“Ay Dios mío,” she sighed, “I misspoke one word and screwed up the spell.” She motioned an index finger to Rex, indicating for him to come closer.

He complied. How would that even be possible? A one-word difference means a completely different spell entirely? Well, maybe not entirely, but still.

She knelt again and held open the page of the book to him. “I know you won’t be able to understand the words, but do you see this little note off to the side here?”

He nodded, looking intently at where she pointed.

Her tanned, wrinkled finger rested on a box with some of the strange text inside it, like how side notes would be displayed in his textbooks. However, there were more diagrams with labels than the blocks of text he got used to during college; many of the diagrams looked hand-drawn too. There was a diagram of a basic human figure, both male and female, and several, smaller diagrams of a few different feral animals, one of which was a red panda. Rex had no idea what any of the text was saying, but he gathered the diagrams may explain what happens to each body part during the transformation process.

“Simply put, this cautions the spell caster not to confuse the word ‘life’ and ‘day’ for the spell I casted on you, because they sound so similar in this language.” She moved her free hand and closed the book. “Please understand that it was never my intention to make this permanent. I made a beginner’s mistake. Lo siento…I’m so, so sorry.”

Rex backed away from her some, dumfounded that such a simple mistake would result in something irreversible. Right then, he knew he’d never see any of his friends or family again. He’d never be able to work, find a career in his field, find a mate, or take care of the house or Misha. A part of him wanted to run and hid from the old woman, never wanting to see her again. But where would I go? How can even survive? I mean, it’s not every day you see a red panda around here, unless at the zoo. Hmmm…maybe I could sneak in there but… He sighed, but couldn’t bring himself to dart as far away as he could from the old woman. The only thing he could think of is curl up into his tail and whimper.

María got on her knees and cautiously shuffled closer to him. She felt a pit in her stomach form, knowing how unsure and scared Rex is right now, and wanted to fix this as best as she could.

He still whimpered when she scratched the top of his head, trying to comfort him, then stood up again, groaning as her knees creaked back to their natural posture.

“You don’t know how much I care about you bud. I’ve been watching you from afar, yet I couldn’t help you in the slightest until now. If there was a way, I could manually reverse the spell, but no one’s developed such a thing for centuries.”

He moved his eyes just above his tail fur, curious but scared of what the old woman was saying.

“Here…come join your grandma on the recliner.” She motioned him to follow and sat on it.

Grandma? What the hell is she talking about? Curiosity and concern tugged at him as he uncurled himself and padded his way to the recliner. He then climbed up along its side, digging his claws and tearing at the upholstery as he crawled up onto the arm rest. He then curled himself up as best he could while still facing María.

“All I ask is for you to believe everything I say, even if you think I just sound like a crazy old lady.” She took in a deep breath, exhaled the tension, then began to explain.

“Your friends never sent me here; I came on my own accord. I wanted to wait until you had a place of your own first and away from your parents. Neither of them wanted anything to do with me once they found out I was a mage, especially your father. In all my years of raising him, watching him grow, knowing he’d make an excellent father and husband…I never told him about my abilities or where I drew my magic from.” She paused, taking in deep breaths to not let herself get emotional. “Your mother must have had a strong influence on him since they met.

“About a year or so after you were born, I decided to reveal my secret I’ve been keeping for so long. I thought back on that day over and over again, yet I could never figure out what prompted me to reveal my abilities to them at that particular stage in your lives. I’ve asked the Spirits of the Realm about this, I’ve consulted any books on mage and non-mage relationships and ethics, I even asked other mages about it, though most of them were angry with me for revealing my abilities to non-mages. Nothing seemed to point me to any logical conclusion; it wasn’t because the Spirits guided me to do so, nor was it influential energy from the Realm prompting me. I just…felt like it was the right thing to do at the time and, well, I was tired of keeping such an important part of me hidden for so many years.”

She leaned her head back, exhausted from revealing so much to her grandson all at once. She looked back at him. “Did your father ever tell you that his mother died when you were only a year old?”

He nodded, trying as hard as he could to believe what she’s saying, despite all that’s happened to him today.

“Well…she did, at least to him and your mother, and the rest of the family, as far as they’re concerned. They also never wanted you to be near me ever again; probably because they thought I would drag you into a pagan cult or something. Mind you, us mages respect the natural world, as well as the Realm, but we do not worship it; just like how animals and non-mages use the natural world as a resource, we use the magical energy from the Realm in a similar way, as a resource or a tool.” She briefly looked out the window of the living room, noticing it was already dark. She then looked at her right wrist. “I would explain more, but it’s getting late, and I need to be on my way.”

Rex uncurled himself, but remained prone on the armrest.

“But what to do with you…” She looked at her bag, then around the living room, then back at Rex. “Do you have an animal carrier of some kind around here?”

He carefully dropped from the armrest, not falling on his face this time, and skittered towards the closet in the foyer.

María got out of the recliner and headed to the closet. She opened the door, looked towards the floor, and then to the shelf near the top. Off to the side on the shelf was a grey cat carrier, just within reach of her arms, though she used her magic to levitate it down to her. She put the cat carrier on the ground and opened the cage. “I’m sorry about this, but it’s the only discrete way for me to keep what I did to you hidden from unwanted eyes.”

Rex gingerly tiptoed into the carrier, sighing as he did so. It’s not like I’ll have anywhere else to go anymore. He heard the old woman close the gated door to the carrier and made sure it was secured. Now I know why Misha hated getting into this thing; I can barely turn myself around.

María picked up the carrier by the handle, Rex in tow, and quietly opened and closed the front door, locking it up with her magic. Walking on the sidewalk, she made sure she walked far enough along where no street lights would illuminate her path. Once she was sure the late autumn blackness surrounded her, and no one would be able to see her, she vanished into a mist, taking Rex with her.

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