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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 112: Brown 89
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Previous chapter: Chapter 111: Hastings 130
Derek settled into the overstuffed chair in the living room that had magically appeared around them when they entered the cave. He was wearing the bathrobe he got from that castle in the swamp long ago. It dragged on the floor and was too long in the sleeves, but was the only thing he owned that he could make even approximate a fit to this strange not-quite-three-foot-tall body that was apparently now his. He was much smaller than Derek Jacob Brown, but twice as tall as Theian Toreinu Morach, neither human nor sprite. Now he was having a genuine identity crisis, not at all certain who he was.
However, at their prodding, he had told the whole story, beginning from versing out when Lauren's comfort bubble floating in space had burst, through the inside view of the pregnancy, discovering he had been born a sprite, teaching himself a few psionic skills, learning the potion from the elves, and becoming the great deliverer who taught them to defend themselves without killing, only to be shot by some human who didn't know what was happening. Bethany had asked some strange questions and made some odd comments along the way.
"So, you actually know what it was like to reenter your mother's womb and be born again then? What was it like?"
He hadn't thought of it that way, and said so. "Anyway, I really had no idea what was happening when it was happening, or I might have learned a lot more from it. I never imagined that I might be, well, there. I suppose I should have guessed, but I never did."
Later, she said, "That's very interesting that you were looking for the darts so you could learn to make a sleeping drug, and you found the darts, but also found someone who could teach you to make the drug. Do you think you could make it here? We could probably use it, although I suppose it wouldn't work on vampires or ghouls."
"I imagine not," he answered. "I don't know about making it. I don't think I've seen quite the right plants about, but I haven't been looking yet, and anyway they don't grow the leaves and berries this time of year."
"So, before you came here you were a sprite, maybe a bit more than a foot tall, named Theian?"
"Well, named Morach. Theian Toreinu Morach, but family names come first and given names go at the end. I was the son of Theian Orlina Lelach and Theian Alanda Morani, if that helps."
"So you were a sprite named Morach. But before that you were a boy named Derek?"
"That's right. Derek Jacob Brown."
"And now you're this--what do you call yourself in this form?"
"I don't call myself anything in this form. I don't want to be in this form, and I never was before and never expected to be."
"Derek," Lauren said, "probably you shouldn't get too upset about this. It seems at least plausible that this is some sort of intermediate form, that your body is trying to get back to being human after being a sprite for so long. In another world or two you'll probably be your old self again, maybe with a few bits of Morach worked in, like being a few years older."
"Besides," Bethany added, "I think I can help you now. But I think it would be much easier if you had a name, something you call yourself when you look like this."
"When you think of Derek," she said, "you think of a human boy. When you think of Morach, you're a sprite. There's a big difference between a human and a sprite. But right now you're a little like a human and a little like a sprite. I think this could be a bridge form, something that lets you change between being a sprite and being a human. But I think you'd have to have this form pretty clearly in your mind, so you could become this easily, and the best way I can think for you to do it is to give yourself a name which means this person."
It still sounded silly. "You want me to think of a name for myself, for when I look like this? I've never given myself a name."
"I'm sure you have," Lauren said. "Didn't you ever play role playing games? Or when you were very young, didn't you play let's pretend? That's the same thing. You just need to think of a name that fits the character."
"Fits what character? I'm still me; I just look different."
"You look different, but probably you are different. Think about it. For probably about twenty or twenty-five years you were Derek Jacob Brown; then for maybe twenty more you were Theian Toreinu Morach. In some ways, they're the same person; but aren't they also different people in some ways?"
It was true, of course; Derek just hadn't thought of it that way before. "Well, Morach was a lot more athletic than Derek; he was one of the strongest and most agile sprites around, really. And of course, he could fly, and fly pretty well."
"He's also a pretty good student of sprite religion. Derek was never much for such things."
"Well, he's a hacker, for sure. Morach could do that, but he never did--there weren't any computers in that world. On the other hand, Morach learned a lot of mental stuff, although I'm sure Derek could use it now."
"So really, you have a lot of ideas connected to those two names. Derek is one person, and Morach is another. This is a third person. He needs a name. Since you probably won't be this person much, and right now you don't know much about him, it has to be a name that will fit him in your mind, so you can build that connection easily."
"Like what? What do I know about this person that I've never been before?"
"Well, it seems that you're part sprite, but not all sprite. You're half man. Half man--that might help, something like Halfman, or--or what about Hoffman? You could be Hoffman something, or something Hoffman."
Derek wasn't sure he liked that idea; he also didn't have a better one just yet. "So, if I'm half man, what's the other half?
Bethany stepped in. "Well, the other half is sprite, or pixie, or fairy; are they all the same thing? You could be Hoffman Pyxis, or Hoffman Demisprite, or Hoffman Ferris…."
"Or Ferris Hoffman," Derek said. "Ferris works as a first name, doesn't it?"
"I've heard it used that way once, I think," Lauren said. "Ferris Hoffman works. Do you like it?"
"I have no idea," Derek said. "I guess it will work. So, let me introduce myself, I'm Ferris Hoffman. Yeah, it works. Now what?"
"Now," Bethany said, "I've got a lot of work to do. Morgana told me that Merlin use to do something like this to turn some of his students into animals, so they could learn things about the world by seeing them from that perspective. But Merlin's morphs were only temporary, and they were in one sense more magical. What we want to do with you is give you the ability to become Derek, or Ferris, or Morach, whenever you want, because they're all you. I'm going to have to cook up some ingredients, and go over the incants, and maybe tweak the ritual a bit. Meanwhile, today you're Ferris Hoffman. Take some time getting to know him. Who knows? You might discover that he has abilities you'll find useful."
"And I," Lauren offered, "will try to put together some clothes that will fit you and accommodate those wings of yours. I've got to go into Wandborough anyway. I can recharge my laser packs at the inn, and shop while I'm there."
"Oh," Derek said, "if you're recharging laser packs, can you see to mine? I hope they're still good; I haven't used them in two decades, and didn't really have a safe place for them."
"Sure. Give me the charger and the packs, and I'll run both of them."
Within the hour, Derek found himself alone. Lauren was off to town to get things, and Bethany was pouring over books. Now was the time to discover what he could do.
He was too large to use most of his spritish things. He was probably twice as tall as a sprite, but he also doubled all other dimensions. The bow was small, and the arrows tiny, like toys. His human gear, on the other hand, was huge. Picking up the laser was like being a child with an elephant gun. The keyboard on the computer he could use, but his typing was greatly slowed by his smaller fingers.
However, he was still strong, and a good shot. Also, although he couldn't really fly, if he leapt he could glide with a bit of effort, and so discovered, once he worked up the nerve, that he could jump from a fairly high rise and bring himself safely to the ground. As compromises go, this was a good one. It could have been a lot worse.
Lauren returned that evening with clothes that covered this body well. She had to do a bit of tailoring to make them fit over the wings easily, but she'd looked at his sprite clothing before she left so she had some ideas for how to make that work. The food was good, but the sleeping arrangements were a bit awkward. Bethany's hotel bedroom had only two beds, and was of course only one room. Lauren conjured up a mattress for the floor and offered to sleep on it, but Derek insisted that he had his sleeping bag (which was large enough to accommodate his wings, when he was this size, and had survived quite well in the storage shelter he'd built). He was fine on the mattress.
The next day would be the moment of truth, the moment when they discovered whether Bethany could make him a real boy again.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #205: Verser Reunion. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: