Time: Edwardian Era
Location: London, Earth
Steam curling from his nostrils, Verin stared at the crystal vial in his hand as if it might bite him. "Don't like it."
"This is why we're starting here. In private." Shax hurried around the parlor closing curtains as he went. He'd dismissed the staff for the night and they both stood stark naked in their empty London house. Just me, Verin, and his anxieties. Hooray. "Chtork swears the stuff is something new and wonderful. And I know, I know. It's Chtork and as liable to turn us into kittens for the night as anything else. But if it's something ridiculous, we just stay home. Nothing bad will happen."
"Chtork is a fucking moron who has it in for me, Shaxy." Verin heaved himself into one of the wing chairs by the fire. "Most of your mom's goblins don't like me. That one hates me."
"Now, now. Mother's rather fond of her and she's done well for me in the past."
"Sometimes. What about that wand that turned you into a fucking ottoman?"
Shax waved a hand in dismissal. "Temporary bit of nonsense. Didn't last more than six hours. Come on, Ver, don't be a big spawn." Shax opened his crystal vial and raised it in salute. "Down the hatch!"
Though Verin grumbled, he tossed back his potion only half a heartbeat behind Shax. Then they both lowered their vials and watched each other, waiting for the potential disaster to manifest. For a good two minutes, nothing happened until finally an uncomfortable warmth spread over Shax's skin. Dizzy, nauseous, he wanted to sit down, but he kept smiling, gaze glued to what was happening with Verin.
"Holy pits, Shaxy…" Verin shuddered and buried his face in his hands. His huge curled ram's horns shrank and the scales on his clawed feet melted into skin.
"Ver? Going to die on me?" The effect Shax experienced was unpleasant but not unbearable. Clearly, Verin's change was worse.
"Dunno yet." Verin bent double over his knees. "Am I furniture yet?"
"It's not immediately apparent, no." Shax titled his head to the side as he sank into the opposite wing chair. "You seem to have developed a very handsome pair of human feet and your horns are gone. Ver, look at me."
Verin raised his head slowly and Shax's watchful gaze became a shocked stare. That wasn't Verin's familiar face any longer, with its black eyes and several-times-broken nose. A stranger stared back at him, one with clear blue eyes and even, aristocratic features.
"Well, well," Shax said on a soft whistle. "You do clean up nicely some days."
"You look weird," Verin said with a frown.
"You're a human red. Ginger, I guess or some shit. Your eyes are green. Just looks wrong."
Shax grinned and leaped up to rush over to the mirror. Oh, yes. Yes! His human-auburn hair was glorious. They both looked properly human and clothes would only assist the illusion. With a good deal of coaxing and prodding, Shax chivvied Verin upstairs and got them dressed. A valet would've been preferable, but the servants were used to much less drastic charms that only hid the most obvious demonic attributes. Verin was dashing in a black waistcoat and deep blue coat, while Shax went for a bit of flash with a gold-embroidered on cream waistcoat and a forest green coat. A proper pair of young Edwardian rakes they made indeed. The hired coach was waiting on the street and they made their way to Lady Estelle's for her opening of the season party.
They were, of course, fashionably late but not boorishly so. The partygoers were well into the alcohol when they arrived and Shax had no trouble at all with introductions and witty, amusing conversation. Verin stayed near his shoulder, mostly silent but that didn't seem to deter the young men and women at all. They did their best to drag him into conversation, obviously taken by the tall, dark and brooding stranger.
Food, a bit. Drink, sparingly. This was the part where Shax sized up his prey. Who wore what and what was truly worth the risk, how much he could get away with quickly and where the best exits were. Perfection, every moment of the evening, until the young lord chatting up Shax raised an eyebrow at his hand.
"I say, Shackleton. What the devil's happened there?"
Disturbed, Shax glanced down to find a patch of green on the back of his hand. Scales. Bright green scales and they were spreading over his skin in a lazy fashion.
"Goodness. I must have brushed up against something. Please forgive me." Shax gave the human a polite bow. "I fear I should quit your company momentarily to see to this."
He grabbed Verin by the elbow, ostensibly on the way to the washroom and pulled him into a side corridor.
"What? You making trouble already, bonehead?"
"No, Ver. Worse. Show me your hands."
The urgency in his voice must have gotten through since Verin held out his hands without protest. The scales had started on Verin's palms, but were obviously spreading like his.
"Fucking fuckery," Verin muttered. "What's happening?"
"It appears that we've received a two-step potion. I think it's best if we leave before the second step takes hold."
Verin glanced up from their hands and his human face lost color. "A little late for that, genius. You've got face scales and your nose is shrinking."
"Lovely." Shax took a quick survey of the immediate area. "All right. We can't go out the back. Servants coming and going everywhere. Everyone should be down here at the party, though. It's upstairs and out a window."
"So move. I think I'm growing a fucking tail."
Shax took him by the sleeve and hustled through the house to the front hall. There were guests here and there but all too involved in intrigues, gossip and seductions of the moment to notice two transforming guests hurrying past. They reached the hall without mishap and hurried up the grand staircase. A huge gilt mirror sat at the top of the landing and nearly made Shax fall back down the stairs in shock. The figures hurrying toward the glass were no longer a handsome ginger lord and his equally handsome dark companion, but a pair of lizard men complete with bright green bony crests instead of hair.
"Pit's sakes. That's not a good look for either of us."
"Less looking, more going," Verin growled and pushed him past the mirror.
Tearing fabric twisted Shax's head around and, yes, he was growing a flame-forsaken tail too. Not a good look at all. They ran now, searching for an open bedroom but when they found one, it was most unfortunately occupied. A lady's maid fussed with some lacy thing at the wardrobe. When she heard the door open, she turned and screamed. Quite loudly. Possibly the loudest scream Shax had heard outside of Hell.
"Demons!" she shrieked. "Demons in her ladyship's bedroom!"
Because of course she couldn't just faint. Shax tried to leave the bedroom only to find two more maids behind them in the hallway who dropped their linen burdens and joined the screaming. Boots were pounding up the stairs. There might be weapons involved and Shax so hated getting shot or stabbed. It was time for a quick decision.
He caught Verin's now slit-pupiled golden gaze. "A little property damage?"
"Oh, fuck yes. You let me go first, your short puny highness."
There were days when it distressed Shax that Verin had grown up so much bigger than he had. In every way. This was not one of those days. Verin barreled through the room, claws bursting through the toes of his fancy boots, and smashed right through one of the bedroom windows with a satisfying crash. Shax rushed in his wake, his newly scaled feet hardly bothered by the shards of glass littering the carpet.
Shouts of Demons! After them! This way! chased them for several blocks, but they were better adapted to climbing and hiding than humans. They took the safest way home along the rooftops.
As they let themselves in through the back door of the townhouse, Shax began to laugh, which was a disturbing gurgling sound coming from his lizard throat.
"What? What's so fucking funny?" Verin growled as he stomped inside through the kitchen.
"Oh. I was just thinking." Shax thumped his tail against the floor. Tails were interesting. "That's the first time in two centuries that we've been thrown out of a party for being demons. And we didn't even look like us."
"Ha. Hilarious. If we don't look like us by morning, I'm gonna rearrange your lizard face so it doesn't even look like you now." Verin grabbed him by the lapels and lifted him off his lizard feet. "No more fucking potions from that goblin."
Someday, they had to find a better way to blend in. For now, it was back to hats and hoods, and Verin not going to parties, which Shax couldn't feel bad about. He really hated them anyway.
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
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