She watched as Myra finally disappeared behind the trees, but she remained standing on the porch long after the blacksmith had gone. Arliss traced circles around the oval emerald in its silver collar, running her long, thin finger over the glassy surface. Her eyebrows pulled inward and her lips pressed into a thin line; Myra’s inquisitiveness and request troubled her greatly, and she regretted stammering out the truth. After a while of merely standing and thinking, Arliss finally decided how act. She turned her back to the outside and made for the bedroom, hastily gathering her satchel, tossing it over her shoulder, and returning to the porch in a moment’s time.
With the door resealed with a simple flick of the wrist, she quickly departed barefoot into the forest where a small, nearly imperceptible path had been worn. She paid little attention to where she was but kept her eyes carefully on the path before her, deep in thought and contemplation.
Not long after, the trees suddenly ceased in a neat, straight line, opening to a glade pressed tightly between two high-faced cliffs. A veil of waterfalls noisily rang from the stones, pooling in a bowl-shaped depression, and a steady breeze plucked the stray mist from the air, tossing it about in swirling spires. Arliss walked to the center of the clearing, tossed down her bag to the grassy floor, and cupped her hands to her mouth. The breeze flowing through the boughs gathered in her palms and churned playfully there, gently caressing her face and ruffling her hair.
“Mother, I need your council,” she whispered to the wind, which swallowed her words whole. She then splayed her fingers, and the trapped wind rushed from her grasp with the message contained.
She sighed, and the emerald at her throat gleamed brighter than the viridian leaves that crowned the trees. The breeze tugged at the hem of her skirts, tickling her ankles and stirring her hair around her shoulders. The gentle murmur of the water was like laughter, but she did not feel like laughing with it. She took a breath to steady her nerves, and she reached out her limbs wide enough that her joints strained under the effort. Finding the concentrated magic within the emerald conduit at her throat, she severed the flow of energy coursing though her body. The magic snapped like a chord pulled taut, and the guise fell away.
Immediately after the spell was broken, her appendages stretched far beyond what was humanly possible. Her arms grew in length, her fingers elongated, legs bent backward at odd angles, and her beautiful face extended and narrowed into a muzzle. Her dress, billowed by the wind, unfurled into graceful, thin wing membranes. Her ebony hair curled and twisted together to wreath her head and jawline. Scales bubbled beneath her skin as she fell forward to her hands, now long and tipped with black talons. She grew in size, larger and larger until her wings surpassed the treetops and a long tail reached to the tree line. Once red lips that had held pearly teeth, her mouth was now filled with countless ivory fangs pulled from the gums by invisible fingers. Her porcelain skin was now covered in shining white scales that glittered in sunlight. Her crown of hair was now a circlet of dark horns. The emerald necklace, transformed in a fashion to match the size of her true form, now rested between two muscular forelegs in its silver collar.
Opening her bright green eyes, the Mage Faylore drew open her expansive wings. Without the magic concealing her true form, she stretched out her muscles happily and relished in the feeling of no longer being constrained to a mortal guise. A mortal form was unfamiliar no matter how many times she dawned it. This body belonged to her. Now her lungs could fill like bellows and swell with the fire kindling within her ribcage; now her claws could churn the earth and feel the flow of magic running wild like rivers beneath the crust; now her wings could buoy her beyond the confines of the clouds and ferry her past the limits the land imposed.
Her message would arrive faster than she could fly, so she clutched her bag tightly in her paw and launched herself from the glade on powerful hind legs, taking to the air for the first time in more than three months. She had almost forgotten how delightful it felt to fly on the wings she was born with.