The first time a baby elf shapeshifts.
Cirrus woke right up from his nap. Excitement dissolved into disappointment as he looked around the room beyond his crib. His father wasn’t there like he promised! Mammatas was there, sleeping in the rocking chair. Head pillowed against her shoulder. Cirrus pouted. Mammatas was not Dad.
Cirrus pressed his face against the bars of his crib, wanting out. He’d just go meet his dad instead!
But Cirrus couldn’t escape. The bars were too narrow. They were all super close together like blocks forming a tower. Only water could slip through them…
Cirrus fell out of the crib. He landed on the floor with a splash??? He scattered everywhere. He couldn’t see or hear anything. And everything felt so watery. It was all very sudden and scary to him. He tried crying for Mammatas, but no sound came out! It just made Cirrus want to cry more. Why wasn’t his voice working? Why wasn’t anything working???
There were drops of water nearby. He couldn’t see them, but he knew they were there. Cirrus felt very strongly that he should go get them. He slithered over to them. The more he collected, the more whole he felt again.
Once he’d gathered up all the drops, he could finally relax. He didn’t understand why he was feeling all these odd things. He wondered if he’d feel like this all the time: gooey and in pieces. He didn’t want to be watery anymore, he’d rather be soft like a puppy! Father was going to take him to see the new puppies. Maybe he was already there, waiting for Cirrus.
Cirrus felt… solid. And fluffy! He was on four paws. Puppy paws! Was he a puppy now? The mirror was too high up for him to check. He tried calling for Mammatas again. He was barking! And something behind him was moving. He whirled back. It was a tail! He really was a puppy! He kept barking at Mammatas.
Mammatas didn’t wake up.
Cirrus felt his ears flatten. He was disappointed once again.
He scampered over to the door. It opened right up when he pushed at it. There was a huge creak! Cirrus yowled. That hurt! He scampered away before he had to hear it again.
Out in the hall, he heard lots more noises. Heartbeats, talking, tapping, breathing. Some sizzling; someone must’ve been cooking! It smelled greasy and meaty and just like bacon. It smelled really good. Cirrus wanted some bacon. He started following his nose, but he remembered that his father and the puppies were waiting for him. He moved on.
Everything was a lot lower than he was used to. Usually, Father or Mammatas carried him through the halls. He was still just crawling as an Elf. But he really liked moving as a puppy! He was on four feet instead of two. It was easier for him to balance.
He barked hello to all the people he passed. Warriors, staff, and a couple merchants too! They all sounded surprised he was out here.
“Oh, what a cute puppy!” one of them said.
“I just cleaned these floors!” said another when he scampered over a wet floor. He slipped onto his belly, but he got right back up!
“Looks like Lenti’s got a troublemaker on their hands,” laughed one with a very deep, very happy voice.
Cirrus whirled around. Father! He barked and his tail moved faster than ever.
“Let’s get you back to your caretaker, hmm?” Father said. He was still in his bright purple court robes. But Cirrus couldn’t see colors very well. Was this what sight was like for a puppy?
Still, Father was taking him to see the puppies, just like he’d promised! So Cirrus was happy. He tried hugging and kissing his father, but it didn’t really work as a puppy. His puppy not-arms didn’t bend like his Elven arms. And his nose got smooshed against his father’s cheek. Father just laughed some more.
“You’re a very affectionate puppy, aren’t you?” Father said. “I’m sure you’ll be a very loving companion for a warrior some day.”
Cirrus bark-huffed. No warriors! Only Father and Mammatas and Lenti and the puppies.
“You have quite a lot to say, don’t you?” Father said. “Someone talks to you a lot, don’t they?”
They did! Father told him all about the boring people in court, and Mammatas told him lots of fairy tales, and they both sang lots of songs to him. Lenti didn’t speak much at all. Cirrus didn’t mind. Cirrus didn’t talk much either. Cirrus didn’t want to yet. There wasn’t a lot he could say right now.
Father set him down on the grass when they got outside. Lenti and the other puppies and the wolves were there! Cirrus darted over to play with the puppies.
Two of the puppies bounded right over to him. White Paws and Black Tail! They were bigger than him, all the puppies were. They tackled him. Cirrus flipped right over. He pawed at both of them. They all started barking.
Once White Paws and Black Tail were playing with him, the other puppies started coming over too! Cirrus was having lots of fun with his friends.
Cirrus hopped up when he heard his father speaking.
“So how did this little one escape you?” he said to Lenti.
Lenti gave him a confused look. Then they shook their head, “Not one of mine.”
“No?” Father also sounded confused. “Surely he must be. Unless he’s from the forest.”
Cirrus barked at his father. He wasn’t from the forest, he was from the nursery! Silly Father…
Lenti looked right at Cirrus.
“Very blue eyes,” they said.
“Some puppies do have blue eyes, don’t they?” Father asked.
“None of mine,” Lenti said. “Not this year.”
“He must be from the forest then,” Father said.
Cirrus barked even louder. He was not from the forest. He was from the nursery! Why wasn’t Father listening?
“You don’t suppose he’s an orphan, do you?” Father asked.
Cirrus didn’t know what an orphan was. He barked again, hoping Father would explain it. Father knew all kinds of words! Like bioluminescent and bridge and palatial! Cirrus wanted to know all the words, too!
Father joined Lenti in watching Cirrus.
A kitty showed up! Cirrus bounded right over to it. He didn’t bark at it. Kitties didn’t like barking.
The kitty stepped back from him. Maybe the kitty would be more comfortable if he was a kitty too? Cirrus focused really hard on becoming a kitty!
He soon felt smaller. More compact, Father might say.
He meowed at the kitty. The kitty watched him. Cirrus mewed, trying to prove he was safe and friendly.
The kitty picked him up and brought him over to Father and Lenti. The puppies stayed with their parents.
Both Father and Lenti looked at Cirrus like he’d done something shocking.
“A shapeshifter…” Father said.
Cirrus meowed at Father. Silly Father, Cirrus wasn’t a shape! Cirrus was an Elf.
Cirrus was hungry, he wanted food. Father was done with work, so it was probably time for dinner anyway. Cirrus hoped there’d be peaches tonight!
Mammatas! She’d come over in a hurry. She looked upset, so Cirrus tried to hug her, but hugs didn’t work as a kitty either.
Mammatas continued, “Milord, your son is missing!”
“What!?” Father said, sounding really scared. Cirrus had never seen his Father scared before.
Even Lenti was scared.
Cirrus started getting scared too.
“I put him down for a nap, and I must’ve put myself down for a nap too,” Mammatas sounded so sad. “When I woke up, he was gone! We’re all looking everywhere for him!” Mammatas was crying. “I should’ve found someone to watch him before I sat down in that damn chair!”
Cirrus really wanted to hug her. A hug would help her.
“Mammatas, this isn’t your fault,” Father said. “Court has been stealing me away; I’ve been needing you for longer hours…” He turned to Lenti. “Lenti, if I brought you one of Cirrus’s toys, could the wolves track him down?”
Lenti nodded firmly.
Cirrus meowed again. He was right here! He stood up against his father’s leg.
Father looked at him.
“Cirrus?” he said.
Cirrus looked up at him. Cirrus started crying. He didn’t want to be a kitty anymore! Or a puppy and especially not water! He wanted to be an Elf and hug people and be held by his father…
“Cirrus is a shapeshifter!” Mammatas said.
Lenti snorted, “Gonna need a new crib.”
“Yes, yes we will,” Father laughed. But it wasn’t a happy laugh. Father still sounded scared. He picked up Cirrus and held him.
Cirrus clung to him. He missed hugging people properly.
Then Father looked at Lenti. “Well, Lenti, thank you for preparing the wolves for a search. I’ll let you know when we need them again. And Mammatas?”
“I do apologize for overworking you,” Father said. “I’m going to be spending a few days with my son. If you could spread the word that I’m looking for additional caregivers, I would greatly appreciate it.”
“Of course, milord!” Mammatas said. She tapped Cirrus’s nose. Cirrus was too tired to enjoy it. “You keep your father out of trouble while I’m gone. You’d think between parenting and the court, he’d have no time to make mischief, but he still manages to sneak some in! Did you ever apologize to that poor duchess for the toads in her chambers?”
“Not until she apologizes for insulting our wolf caretaker!” Father huffed. “It’s not rude not to speak, and I won’t have anyone claiming otherwise. Not even fellow nobility!”
Lenti smiled. Mammatas sighed, exasperated yet amused.
Cirrus waved good night to everyone, including the kitty. Then Father took him home and then they ate dinner. There were peaches! Cirrus’s favorite! Father had grownup food and a whole peach instead of skinned, cut up pieces.
Cirrus was tired after dinner. He’d played a lot after his nap. And the moon was starting to peak out. Father held him and sang him lullabies. All this love and security helped Cirrus fall right asleep.
“My son is a shapeshifter,” Father said. “My son, you’re the first shapeshifter in a hundred generations…”
Cirrus didn’t know what generations were. He’d ask Father in the morning.