A sickly dark mage swaps bodies with a NYC ballet dancer to prolongue his life. The dancer though has strong opinions and a bit of a necromantic bend on his philosophy in life now that he’s been isekai-ed into a fantasy world. Doesn’t help that he’s falling in love with the dark mage’s step brother.
Genres: fantasy, isekai, adult, lgbtq+
Soul Transfer was not a spell I wished to be an unexpected recipient of. I also didn’t want to find myself blindfolded, bound in rope, floating who knows how high in the sky at the time I registered that baritone phrase flitting through my head. I could only hope that whoever transferred into my body didn’t land Gregory on the floor. I was in the middle of a Grande Jete and Gregory was going to catch. Whatever jerk took over my body had better be thanking me I’d been stretching for weeks to get that split perfect. Finding myself suspended, blindfolded, with blistering cold air rushing across my face, I wished I had left my tendons tight to spite the bastard.
At least I got a wish I had wanted since I was young. And I didn’t need surgery for it, or god knows how many years of therapy and hormone shots and waiting to reach the end of my professional career as a ballet dancer to transition. People ask that asinine question on social media of what you would do if you woke up as a different gender one day. Well. I’ve had the wrong equipment since the day I was born. I think of myself more as gender-neutral or pangendered, something like it fits the situation, but outward appearance-wise, I sure don’t look like what’s in my head. I know that. I stand in front of mirrors for too many hours a day to recognize the stranger staring back at me as not quite right. You know what? Waking up as the correct physical sensation is pretty epic. Save for the probably going to die in five minutes part. And the general screaming. And hoping I wasn’t about to die. That wasn’t how I thought I’d get this dream of mine.
The next weird thing to discover about myself in this new, precarious position I find myself in, outside of wondering if I will hear the words Soul Transfer again and end up missing my step and breaking my ankle, is the fact that I can reach a phenomenally high octave. I discovered this upon hearing a twang and subsequently plummeting to earth. I call it earth. I hit a variety of foliage and partially impaled several small twigs into my arms, and bruised my ribs pretty good on the way to moulded undergrowth and that cold slime of decaying leaves.
I guess when life wants to drop you into life, you just roll with it. Or fall with it. Now, the big arms and low muttering echoing against my side and being flipped over a shoulder and trounced about from the cold undergrowth to a sunny spot. That was outside of the five minutes of expectations I had come to with my new life at this point. Was I to anticipate my archenemy or my hero? Oh wait, what about frenemies? That’s a thing. My heart was quite certain it still was in the mood to pursue the I’m Going to Die train of thought. My brain was trying its hardest to convince it that there was the optimistic potential for this person to not be evil. Then there was the rest of my body that was floundering to not get banged about.
There’s this concept that time stretches when you’re scared, when you’re blind, or when you are experiencing something intense. Time doesn’t do any of that. Time’s a construct, an invention. No. What’s happening is you’re flipping out and thinking way too many things, and that makes you feel like time slows down because you usually don’t think of that many runaway bunny paths at once. And time had slowed way down for me. There’s also the bit where the flip goes from way too much thought to numb empty brain case where all you become aware of is the air escaping your lungs. I could not tell which one felt slower. I’m willing to say neither are pleasant, repeatable experiences I wish to be readily subjected to again soon.
About the time I had finally gotten used to the warm sun on my butt, the uncomfortable bobbing of being turned into a sack of meat and bones, and my abductor/saviour’s belaboured breathing was about the time I got chucked to the ground, this time, less wet than the forest floor.
“Seriously though, can you get the blindfold off first?” I asked while he hacked away at the encasement of ropes keeping me from crawling away like an inchworm. My abductor/saviour, we’ll call them a/s for short, grumbled back something unrecognizable, and I ended up with a sinking suspicion that whatever the other guy, who I will lovingly refer to as that asshole who Soul Transferred me did, they sure didn’t give me my babel fish. Look. I’m gender-neutral, fluid, indifferent, and I’m still struggling with reminding myself during frustration and anger not to view the outer appearance of a person and assume a gender. Even that asshole who shoved me into a body that I’m not going to complain about right now. Everyone does deserve the respect of their preferred pronoun being recognized. Even when we hate them. And I could currently say I hate them. But it’s more of a hate love. I distinctly don’t like the fact this happened without my permission, but I’m also pretty okay with at least one factor of this outcome, for now. That may be reassessed in short order once a/s gets the blindfold off me.
Getting my arms bound to a tree, on the other hand. Now we might just switch a/s to abductor instead of a/s. “What are you doing?” I demanded of my captor. Again, a babel fish or a techno-translator button would have been nice. Still, nothing I could understand of tenor-voice-drop over here. A swift, forceful kick to the nuts did the job of getting the offender to unhand me when they went to town trying to cut my tunic to ribbons. I realized it was a tunic because it went a lot further down to cut than a shirt. The texture was also atrocious in hindsight. Some type of coarse material. Wool had to be out. That stuff was way too expensive to consider affording, but something in that category of ungainly itch.
A soothing begging cadence of pitches elicited from Abductor, and the blindfold finally came off. Well, hello, god. I at least got the full view of every romance writer’s wet dreams. Wide shoulders, dark hair, square jaw, chiselled features. You know the routine. Now, the accusatory look of pain and begging forgiveness that meshed together made me feel a touch guilty at bringing Abductor down a peg didn’t need to seep in.
That and the fact this body type was playing mean with the rest of me. Not something I wanted to learn how to control immediately. Thanks, heart, you can go shut up about the sirens of ‘you’re going to die, you’re going to die, you’re going to die by this blob of handsomeness, but you’re still going to die.’ I realize I’m probably going to die, go tell it to my second brain, ‘cause it has a mind of its own and is not welcome here at the moment.
“Fucking hell, let me go, you dick!” I struggled with the rope holding me to what turned out to be a rose quartz-coloured tree. The translucent pink was interesting. The ropes, those were futile.
Abductor returned a series of comments, eyebrows drawing up in confusion. The individual in the plate mail and ornate standards pointed toward my hands and then mimed a series of hand gestures. He elicited a question rise at the end of sentences. That left me trying to follow along with no logical idea. The hand gestures looked like a bunch of anime spell-casting signs. I got isekai’d didn’t I?
One would think the rose quartz tree and the dollop of easy on the eyes would answer that as a definitive yes. The iridescent quintessential European-style dragon with full wings. That did it. That answered all of my pressing questions. I was in a different world. Which left a whole hell of a lot of other questions, none of which were going to be answered by the individual who insisted on pointing at my hands. “They are stuck to a tree, Morgan. Stuck to a tree. If you want them, you’ll have to untie them. Also, explain to me about the dragon. And why it’s three feet tall, and acting like a labrador.” I took my panic down a couple of notches. Side note, I tend to call a lot of people Morgan. It’s my go-to gender-neutral name, rather than assuming sir or ma’am or xerster. I find titles like that more sarcastic. Maybe not the most polite of things to do, but I couldn’t outright keep calling tall, dark, and good-looking abductor or dick. I mean, I could, but it wasn’t going to do much for either of us.
For want of a better name, Morgan crept over to my side, continuous with the gestures, and the calming, quieting tone, at least, I was hoping it was that type of tone. I watched warily as they cut away one of the ropes, letting my left hand free. They brought up their hand to block their face almost immediately and ducked. Most people think I’m weird with my body language observation. Morgan was breaking every running list of what to expect from a person I have constantly scrolling through my head in preparation for interaction with people. One hand free, I went after the other rope to get it off. There’s something to be said about Morgan’s efficient knot-tying skills, and why they depend so heavily on their knife. The rope wasn’t going to come off if I wanted it to. Which I desperately wanted to do.
This is where everything started going haywire in my brain. My brain is pretty haywire to begin with. The world doesn’t quite process like everyone else’s does. It really wasn’t processing correctly now. Little blue sparks were flicking away from my skin like electric water droplets. I stopped struggling with the rope to fixate on the randomness I was seeing. Rose quarts trees, labrador-sized dragons, armoured Morgan. Those seemed relatively unassuming with this transpiration. I glanced in Morgan’s direction. “So, why’ve I gone all sparkly, Morg?”
Morgan had backed up a good several paces from me at this point, and the red dragon puppy had sat back on its haunches, spread its wings out wide, and was emitting a low hum, resulting in a lime plasma transparent shield of some kind around Morgan. Neither human nor beast was about to help me out of this situation. While studying my sparking fingers, I noticed a bit of black smudging on my chest under my tunic. Grass green tunic. Shelve that. The grass here was redolent amber. Gold embroidery. My chest was just right for once, save for the sigils I found beneath the ribbons of wool. “What is this?” I demanded, realizing I probably would not receive an answer. Warped circles and zaggy lines radiated all over me. I rubbed at the lines, the soot coming away on my fingertips. Which made Morgan even more agitated.
“No, wait, what are you doing?” Morgan asked.
I met his eyes, a deep hazel shade, at that question before flicking back to the sigils. “What do you mean what am I doing? You’re the one that bound me to a tree. And why do I understand you now? Who the hell are you, and where am I?” I rubbed my hand against khaki leggings to dispel the soot leaving my skin dry and brittle.
“Wait. What have you been saying? I thought you were casting some long-ass spell, Wallace!” Morgan bristled. “If you aren’t going to torch me, I’ll let you free.”
“What do you mean torch? Not directing the sparkly fingers at you. Wallace? Wait, this body’s name is Wallace?” I’m not sure what was more nauseating, the colour of my leggings or the fact my name was Wallace. Bad combination of sounds if there ever was a series of sounds mashed together. Save for the weird crooning sound of the dragon when Morgan went around its little barrier. The thing sounded absolutely pathetic.
“You are Prince Wallace Mark Demare, or did that fall from the Wraith sprain your brain?” Morgan asked, coming over to release my other hand.
I rubbed at my wrist to return circulation, the sparkly fingers dissipating. “Yo, I’m a prince of nothing. I got switched into this body. My name is Lacey McNamara, and your prince is not occupying this husk at the moment. Grant it, I rather like this husk, but you’ll probably want to find somebody to switch us back.” I explained.
Morgan flopped on his butt, their metal armour clanking. The blank expression that I could relate to. The one that said all the lightbulbs had just turned off. “He really ran off and left this world as he promised.”
“Is he liable to come back?” I asked. “I don’t mean to rush things along, but I kind of was in the middle of practice for a performance tomorrow night, and if he got switched into my place, he sure as hell isn’t about to perform anything properly.”
“What do you remember of what happened? When did it happen? Was it back when the Raturdash captured you? You knew I’d come for you; why didn’t you just wait for me to get you down?” Morgan begged, grasping my hands, pulling my attention.
I tugged for freedom, not liking the close proximity. “First off, Morgan, let’s make sure you remember I’m not your you. Call me Mac if you must, but I’m not Wallace. Second, space. Thanks.”
“Why are you calling me Morgan?” Tall, dark, and confused asked, letting go when blue sparks zinged off to fizzle in the air.
“What else am I going to call you at the moment? Abductor and dick are off the list. I still don’t even have a proper pronoun for you for my internal monologuing. Can we get that fixed?” I shoved my hands under my armpits to keep them from being touched again.
“Abductor?” Morgan’s voice pitch went up a notch. “Wait, dick? Well, no, you’ve called me that enough times.”
“Name?” I asked again.
“I’m your stepbrother, Rowan, ring a bell?”
“I’m not Wallace, ring a bell?”
“Oh. Right. Okay. Um. So. Wallace is my stepbrother. You’re in Wallace’s body,” Rowan explained. “Is Mac really the name you want to go by? It means a steer’s non-existent balls here, if you weren’t aware. I mean, if you aren’t Wallace, you probably aren’t. This is confusing.”
“Interesting. I’ll figure out a name later. The meaning sounds poetic to me at the moment. What about a pronoun?” I asked.
“The one you prefer people using when referring to you?”
“Uh, he, I guess? That’s never been something someone’s thought to ask me,” he surmised.
“Is it the one you want?” I asked.
“I’m not sure I understand?”
“I’m just trying to play nice by societal dictates on how I’m supposed to treat people and not misgender them. I’m good with any pronoun outside of it, thank you. Now, where am I, and why am I occupying your prince’s body?” I pressed, “Also, where can I go to get this gunk off of me? I don’t like the textures. It’s bugging me, and I’d much rather not deal with the wool crap.” I rose unsteadily in the body that was about a foot taller than my regular form. Oh, was I going to be a clumsy newborn giraffe or what?
Rowan grabbed for me before I could crash to the fossilized tree sap-colored ground. I sagged against his height and worked to keep my stomach in its place as the world around me spun in an unyielding kaleidoscope. “Your world is freaking weird, Rowan. Not meaning to diss on it, I’m just not used to the idea of see-through trees.”
“See-through? What do you mean by that?” Rowan glanced around at a couple of trees in the courtyard I found myself in. The bricks were swimming blocks of glass and water, glowing black creatures slithering between the edges.
“Everything? Like, what’s with the things in the walls? They have three hearts. They’re ticking away like tiny red meteors.” I tried to explain, but the longer I stared at the strangers, the worse my head felt for it.
“The walls are stone. They’ve always been stone, Wal-Mac. Sorry. Uh. It’s grey. That’s all I’m seeing. Here.” He led me over to an archway that led into a part of what turned out to be a castle complex. “See, they’re solid.” He rapped his knuckle on the see-through blue blocks. The little black creatures, their bright yellow eyes too big for their slender little heads, dashed away, their red hearts pounding. Waves bounced around, sending light rays dazzling about the courtyard, shimmering through the grasses and trees.
“Yeah, that’s not what I’m seeing here, knight,” I quipped, touching the block. My hand slid through it into a thick, cold liquid. My skin shimmered in the blue. The little creatures scurried toward me in excitement. They twisted and wiggled around my hand, and I pulled one clear as fast as it took for Rowan to put substantial distance between himself and me. “So, what are the weird black newts?” I held my hand up for him to look at it.
His colour said he was about ready to wretch as the slimy thing desperately tried to escape my grasp. I shoved it back into the brick, where it scurried away to hide in a writhing mass of others like it. “So, what am I not seeing, and what are you seeing?” I turned back to him, ringing the drops of liquid off my hands from the creature and the bricks.
Stammering, he worked to compose himself before giving up. He ushered me through a pair of cobbled courtyards, past a blacksmith forge and stables, and into the great hall of what looked to be a see-through 12th-century castle. “Where the hell did you go, Wallace, and who the hell did you leave in your place?” he muttered under his breath as he pressed me up the stairs, through a maze of hallways, and up through a tower.
This tower contained a series of floors at intervals, each one crammed with books and a pedestal to set them upon. The hide binding on each one wiggled and stretched at my passing. The smell of the creatures used to create them left the rooms smelling of a barnyard. “I’d like to know where your Wallace went too. I’d like a refund. He sees some weird shit.” I muttered back as we entered the topmost room, which proved to be a bedroom with a blocked-off corner leading to a chamberpot, bathing tub, and a cloth-covered mirror. A massive swirl of brilliant paint in concentric circles and stars burst across the rose quartz floorboards.
“Everything still strange in here?” Rowan held tight to both of my shoulders, trying to get me to look at him. A sinking pit inched its way through my chest at the affront to my personal space while I glanced about the see-through room. A set of maids were working in a different room way below the tower. The hills spread out around us. The sun ticked past noon, throwing rainbow sparks through the foliage. It was too much.
“Let go,” I hissed. A clap of thunder in the distance, and he was plastered against the far wall where the black newts crawled out of the water bricks to hold tight to the man in plate armour.
“We’re taking that as a yes,” he swallowed, his face going sallow.
“What is Wallace, and where am I?” I clung to the shreds of my tunic if only to have something to hide my nervous fingers in.
“He thought he could become a wizard,” Rowan admitted as the black newts let him slide down the wall.
“Thought? More like was. He’s awful powerful.” I stalked off to a table with a pitcher and basin. Hunting around, I found a washcloth and pulled my tunic off to wash off the black smudges.
“You’re not him. He’s never been able to do more than make fire drops. Grant it; that can be terrifying when most of your flooring is based on grass. You just pulled a Mander from a wall. You trapped me with a word and not a spell. You didn’t summon anything through chants or wards. He’d memorize for days to get fire drops. Who the hell are you?” Rowan demanded.
“I’m a ballet dancer from New York! Well, from the midwest. This was going to be my first season as a backup dancer.” I pulled the sheet from the mirror to see if I had gotten all the black soot off. What I saw looking back at me was not what I had expected.
Me. The skin me. Not the real me. The me that had stared back at me in the mirror since I was little. The expression, that serene one on the verge of laughter. Tracing the mirror edge, the surface rippled and fingers touched. “You seem happier on that side,” the mirror-me whispered, the one that’s grin would crawl into its eye when I would stare too long.
“Wallace,” I hissed at the twisting maleficence.
“Didn’t take you very long to figure it out. Rowan there with you, I see.” The woman in the tutu strutted on point, clumsily, I might add.
“You’re seeing this idiot in the mirror, right, knight?” I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the dressing room mirror.
“What are those lights?” He pointed out the fluorescent bulbs ringing a set of mirrors across from my mirror. There I stood, the masculine me, the prince in little more than a pair of braise and chausses, trapped in the mirror behind the woman in the tutu. “What is she wearing?”
“You know it’s a one in a billion chance to find your soul mate?” The woman in the dressing room mused.
“I sure as hell am not your soul mate, you fucking banana,” I gritted my teeth.
“And why not? Your soul fit into me just fine, and I you. I rather like this body. It feels better than the one I was in before. And you? Do you not like your new one?” She tiptoed around bags of gear, petticoats, and tossed undergarments.
“Enjoy the cramps, bastard. You’re expecting them in two days. And I’m not telling you where the ibuprofen is,” I seethed.
“Now you sound like a proper wizard there. I have no idea what you’re spouting off about.” She settled onto a stool in front of the mirror to preen.
“Reverse it. Put me back. I might find this body acceptable, but you didn’t ask, and I sure as hell didn’t say yes to this whole soul transfer thing!” I was liable to grind my teeth into powder at this rate.
“Can’t do that, dear. You see? There’s this thing with soul transfers. You have to die to do it.” She smiled, pink lip gloss reflective under the dressing room lights.
“Die?” I asked sceptically. “So, what are you saying? This is heaven or something? I’m not finding my golden brick road.”
“It took me forever to find that spell and figure it out. Count yourself lucky. Now we both get a second chance.” She snapped her clear plastic straps to relieve the red welts forming in her shoulders. “Now, explain why all of your clothing feels awful.”
“Died. Come back to ‘died’ there for a second, honey. You get to live in hellish clothes if you’re going to continue being the me everyone expects, so just deal with it. I’m processing the died part. What the hell do you mean died?” I poked at the mirror. The glass rippled beneath my fingers. I caught a glimpse of the body I inhabited in the undulations. Short, bright white wavy hair curled around my ears and the nape of my neck. Lilac, bordering on ruby-coloured eyes flashed in an elven face. The glass returned to the view of what had been my petite form, blonde hair piled high in a bun on the top of my head, baby blue eyes in a cupid heart face. The distinct split in my path of understanding gave way to a nauseating pit in my stomach as I reconciled the me in the mirror and the me in the new body.
“You know. That thing where your brain and heart stopped functioning? Yeah. If you have a soul mate, you’re likely to be able to swap places with the right spell when the soul leaves the body.” Blonde Wallace told me.
“I died?” I tried again.
“You and me both.”
“You were bound up in rope floating off into nowhere before your stepbrother got me down!”
“Rowan’s good like that. I think you both will get along well.”
“So, if I find a way to die again, we’ll both switch back?” I asked.
“Nope, it needs to be a pure accident, and unintentionally planned.”
“You just said there was a spell for this. You distinctly said Soul Transfer in my head.”
“I see you wiped away my spell,” she pointed at my bare chest. I looked down at where the sigils had been. “Hey, it had to be an accident. I didn’t say I wasn’t prepared for one.” She shrugged, pouting her lips.
“I’m going to kill Wallace, Rowan. That all right by you?” I turned to the man standing next to me.
“I’m not sure how you’d be able to do that.” He was accepting this too easily.
“Like this.” I drove my hands into the mirror and encircled my original body’s throat and dragged her back to the mirror. Sadly, I couldn’t pull her through. Her head made a wonderful thunking sound on the glass though.
“Oye, lay off you angry Pendragon! I can’t come completely through the mirror and you can’t come over to this side! Why are you such a vulgar fiend! I thought you were dainty, lovely, rather serine. What did I exchange my soul with, a pit of lava?” she demanded.
“You exchanged it with someone who was barely on the verge of civility at any given moment, you quack wizard! Put me back!”
“But we’re soul mates. We fit! I can’t put you back, you already had your one death shot. You die again, there isn’t another soul mate to transfer to. That’s it. You die. Caput. No more wheels, heavens, reincarnations. Now that last one is arguable, but you have to get your soul wiped clean.”
“Great, some useless heap of judgment factory resets us. Ok. So this is my body now then. Not yours. No longer yours. I can do whatever the hell I want with it and you don’t get a say in it anymore, right? Is that what I’m getting out of this? You set some kind of seal on yourself and the moment you died you switched bodies with me because I what, missed and Gregory dropped me and I died?” I qualified.
“It is now entirely yours. You got a free pass to be someone else. And yes, Gregory tripped, snapped his Achilles, and now I’ve got a wonderful sore spot at the base of my neck.” She cracked her neck for the emphasis.
“And how did I die then, this body that I’m standing in, not the one you’re occupying.”
“Got me. I got caught. I always was a sickly child. The doctors said it had to do with miasmas and that my heart never quite worked as it should. Who knows. So, the best suggestion is to tame that temper if you want to keep the old thumper ticking proper.”
“Am I going to end up seeing you every freaking time I look in a mirror?” I was tired of this person and amazed Wallace had been helped to live as long as I think my new body was.
“No. Just that one. It hooks into anywhere where I have a mirror though, so you can usually find me if I’m near anything shiny,” she told me.
“You. You’ve been watching me all my life?” Outrage is a funny word. It doesn’t define that gulf of cold hatred that seeps into your bones. Or maybe that was the drops of frozen water sweating out of my skin.
“Not all of it. Just in the last year or two when I found the spell. It’s what’s on the back of the mirror if you spin it around. Found it squandered away in dad’s horde. Have you met the parents?”
“Have you met mine?”
“No, can’t say that I have.”
“Yeah, you’re gonna have fun with that. I’ll find you when I need you.” I pulled the sheet over the mirror and sank to the floor. Burying my head in my hands I worked to push the anxious foreboding in my gut out if only to save myself from the fluttering in my chest. “You’re taking this well,” I muttered at Rowan.
“If I think about it too long, I’m probably going to have a nervous breakdown and I don’t have time for that right now, so we’re just going to let this happen, have you make it for your sister’s birthday party, and pretend nothing is wrong. Then I’m going to abandon you for a couple of hours, slip down the pub, and wash this whole mess out with a large keg of ale and come to in the morning having forgotten all about this nightmare,” he replied.
“Take me with you. I need something to wash out this nightmare.”
“Nope, you get to deal with Priscilla yourself. She’s your blood sister.”
“Her name’s Priscilla?”
“Who the hell was permitted to name people in this country?”
“That would be the archdioceses, and he doesn’t much like you.”
“I don’t much like him either.”
“Then you’ll get along just fine in this family.”
“I’m not sure that’s reassuring.”
“Wasn’t meant to be.”
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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