Stumbling through the Swordcoast
Excerpts from the Journal of Kiris Hoyt
Third Ten-day of Eleint, 1482 DR
The worst is the hair. I feel it pushing through his skin, a thousand rigid spines, bristling and snapping as they pierce my thick rat-hide and unfurl, silver-tipped in the moonlight. My snout lengthens. I feel a sickening strength in his muscles. I tastes disease in his mouth, foul and sweet all at once, and know that my saliva is becoming poison and my teeth are sharpening to yellow blades. I feel the weight of the tail, earthworm-pink and scabbed with disease. Kiris Hoyt the man is pushed down, and further down, stifled by the weight of the monster.
In my rat-form, sounds are louder, and more detailed. Scents leave an almost-visible haze in the air. The world becomes black and white. Objects are edged with phosphorescence, and the moving, warm bodies of goblins are tinged green. I can feel their warmth, and their heartbeats, and the subtle movements of their blood, and the terrible, familiar thirst lines his throat like sandpaper.
When they are all dead – when there is nothing left to bite, and claw, and tear – I feel my outer shell shudder and convulse, closing in on itself. My claws retract. The change to human is lengthy, and leaves me bleeding and weak, wrung inside-out. I always retch, and cannot look at the remains that I vomits up onto the floor of the shrine, for fear of seeing the hair and the fragments of bone.
I wish I did not remember. I tell myself that I cannot remember, every time, pretending that my human self vanishes entirely when the rat takes over, but the images recur in my dreams; the sickening crackle of spines between my teeth, and the hot-metal taste of blood.
Most of all, I do not want to remember the terrible joy as I kill.
Hours afterward, when I have wholly transformed back into a man – or the emaciated, pathetic creature that passes for a man, hunched and weeping in the corner of the shrine – I can still feel the itch of the rat-form in his bones. Waiting.