Adventures in Athame

by: Ouroboros | Story In Progress | Last updated Jul 25, 2021

Chapter 3
Loss and Gain

Chapter Description: Ryan discovers what he has lost due to his encounter, but begins to learn basic combat and magic skills.

On the way back to Hedwig's home, Ryan's shoes felt heavy. He had to stop and tie them tighter, as well as adjust his clothing a bit. He figured the fight had worn his clothing out or maybe he stretched them trying to get away. However, something else felt off. Things looked different. Were they bigger?

Once Ryan and Kuma were back at Hedwig's home, they began to tell the wise old owl about what had happened.

Oh hoo!” said Hedwig. “So you met one of the many monsters plaguing our world, and suffered a bit of the consequences.”

He doesn't seem to have suffered any side effects.” said Kuma, the plush bear wizard in training.

None that you can tell right away at least.” said Hedwig. “Let's get a better look at you.” He examined Ryan and noticed his loose clothing. There were also some papers sticking out of his pocket. “Oh, what are those my boy?”

Oh these?” asked Ryan, pulling them from his pocket. “This is just the job form I was filling out before I got here.” He looked at them and now they looked different. Some of the words were legible while others seemed garbled.

May I see?” asked Hedwig.

Sure.” said Ryan, handing him the papers.

Hmm, lets see.” said Hedwig. “I think these will help you here.” He chanted a spell and the papers began to glow, then change. “Ah, there we are.”

What did you do?” asked Ryan.

“Have a look.” said Hedwig, handing the papers back to him.

Ryan took a look at the papers and saw that they now showed his name, as well as a small bio, and stats as if from an RPG. Although he still had trouble reading some of the larger words. “Stats?” he asked.

Yes my boy.” said Hedwig. “These will be your base stats. As residents of this world, we each have our stats determined at a certain age. They are recorded on papers like those, and also help us to figure out what is learned and what is lost.

But I can't read some of these words.” said Ryan.

Oh?” asked Hedwig. “Which words?”

These here.” Ryan pointed out.

That's the word for continence.” said the wise old owl. “Did you not say you had recently graduated your educational system?”

Y-yeah.” said Ryan. “But I know that word! I know what it means!”

But you forgot how to read it.” said Kuma. “Your reading skill must have regressed.”

Let's check.” said Hedwig. He looked over the papers and nodded. “It says here your reading skill is at around eighty percent. The max level for that is one-hundred. I would guess you came here with a max reading skill at the very least.”

So that monster...took my knowledge?” asked Ryan, still a bit confused.

They take your knowledge, skills, experience, even sometimes your very age.” said Hedwig.

Age?” Ryan gulped. “How can they do this? Why do they do this?”

They are unable to learn like we can.” said Hedwig. “So they take knowledge and experience as their own, and use it to increase their own stats. The more rare the skill or experience, or the harder it is to learn, the more they desire it. Although some will simply take what they can get.”

How do I get it back?” asked Ryan.

Why, you have to learn it again.” said Hedwig. “Although certain things can be re-learned faster than they are first learned, some things, such as physical abilities, will require complete retraining.”

Did it take anything physical from me?” asked Ryan. “I do feel a bit off.”

“Let me check.” said Hedwig, going over the papers again. “You said your physical age is seventeen yes?”

That's right.” said Ryan. “A few months away from turning eighteen.”

I thought as much.” said Hedwig. “I'm sorry, but it seems here that you have lost a whole three years.” said Hedwig with concern. “You are now only fourteen-years-old.”

Wh-what?!” asked Ryan, very shocked by all this. “I'm younger?” He looked himself over and felt how roomy his clothes seemed. Things did look a bit bigger to him. He had lost a good five inches of height!

Not only that...” said Hedwig. “but it seems you have lost a bit of potty training.”

Ryan blushed brightly. “P-p-potty training?!” he shouted.

Yes, it's down from one-hundred to ninety.” said Hedwig. “Have you noticed any changes there?”

N-now that you mention it.” said Ryan. “I did have a sudden urge to pee earlier.” He blushed having to admit that.

That's true.” said Kuma. “It did seem quite urgent.”

That seems to be all you lost.” said Hedwig. “According to this anyway.” He handed it back to Ryan, who put it back in his pocket. “Now, do you wish to relearn what you lost or start learning combat and magic?”

Well, I guess I should learn combat and magic.” said Ryan. “That will get our trip started faster.”

“Indeed it will!” said Hedwig. “But there's no reason you can't do both. If there are any words you cannot read, ask myself or Kuma. We will go over how to spell them with you. If you need to use the toilet, do not hesitate to go. As for age, well, you can only regain that through time.”

Okay, then lets get started.” said Ryan. “I don't want to lose anything else.”

Kuma, take this money and buy Ryan some gear.” said Hedwig, handing Kuma a sack of gold coins. “Show him around while you're at it. Get to know our people and our ways. It will help you understand our world more.”

Okay.” said Kuma and Ryan. The two headed into town and Kuma showed him where the inn, bar, and various stores were. The roads were made from round cobble stones that were fairly easy on the feet. Things were ran by various animal plushes. They were all dressed as you would expect those in medieval times would be. That being robes, tunics, and trousers for the most part, though some wore armor shaped to their bodies, accounting for their snouts and bellies as needed. Ryan was reminded of Build-A-Bear where one could customize their own plush and dress it however they wish.

At the weapon and armor shop, Ryan looked around at all the clothing and decided to get a blue tunic, gray pants, leather belt, and some nice leather boots as well. Looking at the weapons, he honed in on a sword. It was a basic type of sword with long metal blade that came to a point at the end, sharp edges, a hilt that curved up, and leather-wrapped wooden handle. His inner child began to imagine himself playing pretend and he smiled a bit.

After buying Ryan's equipment, they went back to Kuma's house. There, Ryan got dressed and showed off his new outfit happily. He made sure to store his old clothes in a trunk, but he kept his favorite red scarf.

Since we are in a bit of a rush, I suggest you train in both physical and magical combat.” said Kuma. “Learn to use that sword during the day, and practice magic by night. I know my way around a sword, so I can teach you the basics. However, for magic I think we should both train under Hedwig.”

Ryan nodded, ready to learn. He practice with his sword outside with Kuma. They started with basic slashes, thrusts, and even blocking. The sword was heavy, so it took Ryan some getting used to. The warm wind blew through the yard and cooled things off a bit, but it was still warm, making him sweat. He just focused on progress so that he could get back home. They took a break at one point to have some lunch. The food in the village mostly consisted of fruits, vegetables, and a meat-like substance they seemed to conjure from magic. Most things were done by magic, including the cooking. Since there were no animals, and enemies disintegrated upon defeat, there was no meat as Ryan knew it. It was a generic all-purpose meat that tasted different depending on the type of magic used. Naturally, these all tasted like beef, pork, or chicken to Ryan, and it was all very tasty to boot.

Training continued until night began to fall. Ryan and Kuma made their way back to Hedwig's home to practice magic. They gathered in his large back yard so that no people or furniture would be in danger.

Good!” said Hedwig. “I see you've already made some progress.” He examined Ryan's stats and noted that a new one had appeared. It was a stat for sword skills, and it was at level two. “Now, when it comes to magic you have the basic elemental spells and your more complex ones. Lets start off with something simple.” He snapped his fingers and conjured a flame in his hand.

Oh wow!” said Ryan. “Fire, just like that! Where does it come from?”

It comes from the ether.” said Hedwig. “This world flows with magical energy which can be harnessed and focused to create whatever spells we need. Simple ones like this can be done in an instant, but larger ones require more time to gather magical energy.” He demonstrated by concentrating and muttering, making the fire grow and grow, then it began to rotate and revolve around him until it became an orb of flame that surrounded him. “This would be a fire shield. It can harm enemies who physically attack you, and also block other fire magic.”

Ryan could feel the warmth from the flames and was amazed. “This is awesome!” he said. “When can I try?”

Hedwig dispersed his flames and walked up to Ryan. “In order to use magic, you must concentrate on a single point, picture what you want to create in your mind, and chant the spell.” he said, giving Ryan a scroll. “Here, memorize this incantation and then try saying it aloud while concentrating.”

Ryan looked at the scroll, and tried reading it. However, some of the words he couldn't make out. “Um, what's this word?” he asked.

“Eternal.” said Hedwig.

What's this one?” asked Ryan.

Sacred.” said Hedwig. “Maybe it would be better if I just told you.” He stood back and held out his plush wing of a hand. “Gather now oh eternal magic and become one with my body. Become the sacred flame to burn away evil.” A ball of fire appeared in his hand.

Ryan watched and nodded. He held out his hand and concentrated, repeating the incantation word for word, but nothing happened. “Why isn't it working?” he asked.

It's difficult to successfully cast magic spells on your first try.” Hedwig explained. “You must keep trying. Concentrate. Picture it in your mind, and take your time. Once you learn, it will come to you faster and more efficiently. Eventually you will be able to cast spells merely by thinking the words and not have to say them aloud.”

Ryan nodded and tried again. It was dark now, and the air was filled with the sounds of wind and insects. Kuma remained quiet so as not to interrupt the training, remembering his own first time creating magic. Eventually a small light appeared in the palm of Ryan's hand. “Oh I'm doing it!” he shouted, then the light went out.

You must keep up your concentration until you have fully cast the spell.” said Hedwig. “Go on, try again.”

Ryan concentrated again and this time was able to produce a small orange flame in his hand. It glowed and lit up a small area around him, and felt warm, but not hot.

Oh hoo! Very good!” said Hedwig. “In that form you can picture any shape for it to take and it will take it.”

Ryan pictured a ball and the flame became so. “It's a fireball!” he said happily. “This is awesome!”

Yes, and as such you can throw it or concentrate to gather more energy to make it grow and surround you as I did. However, I would not recommend you do that until you practice concentrating and holding the shape for an extended period.”

I bet I can do it now!” said Ryan, and he tried making the flame ball rotate, but it only caught his tunic on fire. “Aaah!”

Hedwig quickly conjured up some magic and created a water ball in his hand, then tossed it onto Ryan, putting out the flames. “My boy, you must be careful!” he said.

Ryan's flame went out when Hedwig doused him. “Ugh, sorry.” he said. “I just got excited.”

Kuma giggled a bit. “A lot of us get excited our first time. I know I did.” he said.

So I can make water too?” asked Ryan.

“Yes, water, fire, earth, wind, even lightning.” said Hedwig. “But it's important to master the basics first. Now, again. Concentrate and gather magic in your hand. Try turning it into water this time. The words are much the same, but involve water. Repeat after me. Gather now oh eternal magic and become one with my body. Become the sacred flowing water that conquers burning flame.”

Ryan nodded and did so, concentrating. Eventually a small drop of water formed in his hand, but only got his hand all wet. “Ooops, almost had it!” After a few more tries, he was able to finally form a ball of water.

“Very good!” said Hedwig. “Now, lets move on.”

Uh, before that...” said Ryan, squirming. All this water made him have to go. “I need a potty break.”

Oh, of course.” said Hedwig. “Right inside and to the left.”

Ryan rushed inside the house and to the bathroom. It was small, mostly made of stone and wood, and had an obvious toilet seat sitting over a hole. Quickly, Ryan undid his belt and slid his pants down, doing his business. He sighed and felt relief as he went, but soon had another urge. He hurried and sat down on the seat before any accident could happen and he felt an odd tingle around his bottom. When he stood up, he saw there was nothing in the bowl, and his bottom was completely cleaned. It seems this world dealt with waste much as it dealt with any other issue, magic. The young teen pulled his pants up and redressed himself, washing his hands, then returned outside with the others.

All good?” asked Hedwig. “Then let's continue.” He resumed teaching Ryan the basics, and with help from Kuma, the misplaced human boy was able to at least conjure each nature freely without too much difficulty.

After a long night of training, everyone was tired. They went back inside to have dinner, which was conjured up by Hedwig himself. He added a special effect to the food that would help them regain their energy, and heal any wounds they had from their training. Naturally, Ryan had a few scuffs and scratches from a few misfires, but they quickly healed after eating the delicious dinner.

Ah, a good training session followed by a good dinner.” said Hedwig. “Now, lets check your progress.” He examined Ryan's stats and saw that he now had listings for the basic elements of magic, though all only at level one. “Tis a good start!”

Yeah, but it's still just level one.” Ryan complained. “How long does it take to get good?”

Many many years.” said Hedwig. “However, you don't have to be a master to use the teleportation spell.”

Well, that's good.” said Ryan. “I don't like the idea of being stuck here for years.”

I hope it's not so bad.” said Kuma. “Our world may be different, but it's not bad.”

“No, it's not bad.” said Ryan. “It's just strange and dangerous. My world has more technology and no monsters. Well, not real ones anyway. There's no magic and no danger of losing your skills, experience, or age. I bet a lot of people would like to lose some of their age though.”

“Oh indeed!” said Hedwig. “That is true here as well. Older folk like myself become worn and tattered, as you can see.” He showed some hanging threads, faded fabric colors, and general wear and tear on his head and wings. “To us, losing a bit of age here and there is actually a good thing. However, to the young it can be a huge setback. Even so, gaining our age powers up the evil monsters a good deal, so we do not actively seek them out or anything crazy like that.”

Oh, I see.” said Ryan. “I guess that makes sense.” He began to think and he figured since he had already lost a few years of age, if he were stuck there for enough time, he would simply return to his world at his normal age. However, everyone else there would likely be older and may have stopped looking for him. This made him feel sad, which Kuma noticed.

What's wrong?” asked Kuma.

Just thinking about possibilities.” said Ryan. “I don't want my friends and family to forget me while I'm gone.”

“Don't worry.” said Kuma. “There's no way they would forget you. I'm sure of it!” The little teddy bear smiled and hugged him.

Ryan felt all warm and fuzzy inside as he was hugged. It was as if the hug itself had a calming effect and made him feel better. Smiling, he returned the hug and once again felt how warm and soft the little plush was. It brought back memories from his childhood when he had a teddy bear that he loved to snuggle with at night. Like most childhood toys, it eventually got worn out and tossed. The thought of that happening to Kuma was one he did not want to have. Instead, he began to feel sleepy and let out a yawn.

I guess it is about time for bed.” said Hedwig. “The food can restore your energy, but you still need sleep to rest the mind and body. Let everything sink in.”

Ryan nodded and rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, its been a big long weird day.” he said.

“You can sleep at my house!” said Kuma, happily. “Its been a while since I've had guests.”

Good idea!” said Hedwig. “Go and get some rest, then tomorrow we continue training.”

Ryan followed Kuma back to his small house. Inside, he was led to Kuma's modest bedroom. It had floor and walls made of wood with a colorful patchwork rug in the center, a dresser, and a bed. The bed too was made of wood, but the mattress was soft and seemed to be filled with a soft cotton material. This made Ryan wonder if the beds were alive too. However, he dismissed this thought and the bed felt nice and comfortable.

Kuma removed his robes in order to dress in his Pjs, which were just another softer robe. “I'm sorry, I don't have any pajamas for you.” he said softly.

Ryan could see that the bare bear looked just like you would expect a toy plush to look. If he had not been moving, he would have seemed like another toy in a child's bedroom. “It's okay.” he said. Following the bear's example, he stripped to his underwear, blushing a bit since it was still a bit big on him. The underwear at the store was a bit too stiff for his taste.

Kuma laid down first, looking a bit small in the bed which seemed to be a full size one. “I hope you don't mind, but I only have the one bed.” he said.

No, it's fine.” said Ryan. He would rather sleep on the nice soft bed than the floor after all, so he pulled the covers back, laid down, and covered up.

Kuma blew out the candle next to the bed, making the room go completely dark. “Good night Ryan.” he said.

Good night Kuma.” said Ryan. He tried to sleep, but the events of the day rushed through his head over and over. He still couldn't believe it all, feeling like he would wake up at any moment and be back home in his real bed. Just then, he felt a small plush arm around his waist. He instantly felt better and more relaxed, though the situation did seem rather embarrassing for the seventeen turned fourteen-year-old. After all, he was used to sleeping alone without any sort of plush around. Eventually sleep found him, and he drifted off, dreaming of magic, plush figures, and seeing his friends, now older than him, going off to college, leaving him behind. Strangely enough, in his dream, he seemed to be a very small child, clinging to a plush, looking through wooden bars.

To be continued...



End Chapter 3

Adventures in Athame

by: Ouroboros | Story In Progress | Last updated Jul 25, 2021


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