The Curse of Retrogression
Written by Grennd
Clip-clop, clip-clop. The rhythmic noise of horses stepping along the well-traveled roads could be heard by the two men. They both sat on a horse-drawn carriage, one scowling and attempting to rub a stain off his armor, the other looking nervous and trying to muster the courage to approach the knight.
"So, what did happen down there, Captain?" the soldier asked tentatively. He was a young man, apparently fresh out of his training at the academy. It had been nearly an hour since the knight had returned, and the entire company was wondering the exact same thing this soldier was.
The knight, resplendent in his silvered armor, threw back a lock of his black hair. He was a handsome fellow, possessed of a fair face and fit physique. He replied: "Okay, I'll tell you. Make sure you listen good, though, because I'm not going to tell you again. And I know all your little friends are going to be spoiling to know." There was a bit of a grimace in his words. With that, he launched into his story.
The princess had been missing for three days. To most, this sounded alarming. To Brecht, this was practically a godsend. As a newly-appointed Captain of the king's Royal Scout Team, Brecht figured it was natural that he be chosen to find and rescue the princess. And so his assumptions were correct.
A day after receiving the summons from the king, Brecht and his company were on their way. Their group consisted of three carriages, each holding about four people, all hand-picked for this mission. Brecht had only objected to the inclusion of one Lady Lily. Lily was a Sage, a practitioner of magic who used their spells to enhance their minds, becoming true libraries of information and tactics unto themselves. Brecht and Lily disliked each other greatly because of what Lily knew about Brecht.
"Hoping to get some attention out of the princess with a daring rescue?" Lily sneered to Brecht. "God knows it's the only way you'll ever get her to listen to you."
Brecht's face flushed. He narrowed his eyes towards the Sage. "You watch your tongue, lady," he replied, sarcastically emphasizing her title. "The king appointed me to this expedition, and he's going to want to know just how helpful every member of this crew was in the rescue of his daughter. Now begone."
But Lady Lily merely stood there, her long white robes flowing behind her, mingling with her billowing brown hair. Her pale eyes surveyed Brecht intently as she replied. "Assuming you make it back. You don't know half of what that sorceress is capable of." And with that, Lily turned on her heel and retreated back to one of the carriages.
Brecht considered reprimanding her, but decided against it. He estimated he had heard enough from her to make his case to the king. Withholding information! What kind of a Sage was she? Brecht didn't think to consider the threat Lily had implied.
All evidence the kingdom's intelligence had been able to gather had incriminated a local sorceress as the princess's kidnapper. She went by the name of Tyria, and had quite the reputation as a foul, evil-mannered witch. Popular belief had it that she kidnapped the princess for use in some kind of magical experiment. "Whatever it is," thought Brecht, "I'm bringing her back, and then..." he smiled lustfully at this and stalked towards the lead carriage.
"You! Get the carriages moving, quickly!" Brecht barked at a soldier lounging near the rear of the lead carriage. He rose to his feet hastily, dropping his helmet. He quickly stooped to retrieve it, then apologized to the Captain. Brecht merely shot the soldier a withering look.
After the soldier had mobilized the company, they started off in the direction Tyria's hideout was said to be located. A scant two days later, they had arrived. The three carriages were facing but a hole in the face of a mountainside.
"Lily! To me!" Brecht shouted. Within moments, Lady Lily came gliding toward him gracefully, like a flower for which she was named along a pond.
"Yes?" Lily hissed.
"I was told this was where the sorceress had laired."
"Should you trust the king's words, it is." Lily responded, a trace of a smile upon her lips.
Brecht glared at her and dismissed her with a wave of his hand. He then set about gathering troops for the venture into the cave. He selected eight soldiers, and addressed them.
"You four," Brecht pointed at a handful of troops, "will accompany me into the cavern. The rest of you, you are to come in should we be missing for more than two hours."
"But sir," a soldier started. "You really think it will take less than two hours?"
"I'm the Captain here, and my judgement will be trusted," said Brecht, dangerously.
"Okay men, let's go." Brecht announced, motioning with his arm.
Brecht and his soldiers moved cautiously through the dank passage, guided by the light from four torches. Brecht was listening with all of his might, just waiting to hear the first sound...
Then he heard it. A low, indecipherable muttering, coming from a distance ahead in the tunnel. He gestured for the group to stop, then backed up behind them. They looked at him quizzically, until he motioned for them to move forward again. After they had all started forward, Brecht began chanting to himself, calling up power from within him. He reached out his hand, and four streaks of lightning shot forward from his fingertips and struck each soldier on the back of the head. They convulsed silently, then collapsed on the damp, earthen floor.
"Watch out for that sorceress, boys, she's a mean one..." Brecht chuckled to himself, stepping over their limp bodies.
He didn't tell this part to the soldier on the carriage, of course.
Now Brecht was nearing what he was interested in. The princess. He edged into the chamber from which he had heard the muttering. It was faintly illuminated by a scattering of torches roughly inserted into the walls. He first saw the sorceress, standing over a table to which the unconscious princess was bound. Brecht moved forward and unsheathed his sword. He wove another spell, this one of a different nature, as he approached the sorceress. She turned, and gaped at him. She was an ugly thing, to be sure. Ancient, leathery flesh was stretched tight across her bony cheeks, and her moss-green robes were tattered and muddy. She shrieked and began chanting the words to a fierce-sounding incantation. A jet of fire streaked toward Brecht, but the spell he had recently cast absorbed most of it. Only a small burst of flame made it to Brecht, hardly singing his swishing blue cloak. A powerful sorceress she was, but Brecht was the most talented Spellknight the kingdom had seen in decades. He continued to advance on Tyria, casting a spell that caused shards of ice to fly towards her. She easily deflected it by sweeping her arms to create a torrent of hot air, but that did little good against Brecht's long sword slashing across her front. Cold steel hewed into the sorceress's ancient flesh, causing her to shriek in pain. Surprisingly, she backed up and directed a spell toward Brecht. It was a flash of pure force, striking Brecht's polished armor. It made a sizeable dent, but Brecht still strode forward, cleaving Tyria's right arm in two, cutting her again across the torso, and shoving her downwards to the cavern's rocky floor.
The sorceress began to feebly crawl backwards, trying to escape her inevitable plight. Brecht turned an eye toward the unconscious princess, hoping she would be awake. Dismayed that she was not, he began a simple spell that would rouse her awake. He didn't notice that the sorceress had began ta spell of her own, and had just finished it as soon as Brecht's had. No projectile came hurtling towards Brecht, he simply felt a bizarre feeling overtake him as he heard the sorceress cry out a curse in a tongue long forgotten. He turned to her in rage, and plunged his sword straight through her heart. She made a gurgling noise, then slumped backwards instantly.
At that instant, Brecht noticed the princess wake, then immediately lie back down again.
"Wow, sir... that's amazing," the soldier said, in earnest admiration. Brecht tried not to look pleased. "But, sir, what was that curse the sorceress said before she died? Something to keep the princess unconscious?"
Brecht's faint elation at the soldier's compliment faded. "No, I'm sure it was just a failed curse she tried to put on me. Never you mind that kind of business, anyway." But the truth was, he wasn't sure it was a failed curse. He had been feeling strange ever since she uttered the curse. He was positive that the princess would be okay, though. He knew that Lily, as traitorous as she was, would find a way to revive the princess before they made it back to the kingdom.
The four soldiers had been brought back from the cave on Brecht's orders, and were none the wiser to Brecht's ploy. Satisfied that the mission was a success, the crew camped outside the cave and threw a celebratory party. The soldiers had somehow found a supply of alcohol, and were merrily enjoying it. A soldier mildly proficient in the use of a lute contributed music to the festivities. Brecht surveyed the merrymaking with disinterest, sipping of his mead, occasionally bullying or taunting an unlucky soldier.
The next day came, and Brecht awoke in his private tent. He still felt decidedly off, no doubt from the sorceress's curse. He hoped the company would make it back to the kingdom soon, so he could speak to some healers, who could remove this from him.
Brecht patrolled around the encampment, rousing over drinkers from their sleep, trying to assemble them for the day's travels. He then went to the tent that was erected to house the slumbering princess.
"Any progress?" he said curtly to Lady Lily, who was already there.
"No, not yet." Lily replied icily, staring hard at Brecht.
Brecht stole a few more gazes at the princess. Even after five days of being dragged about by a mad sorceress, she still looked quite beautiful. Her blonde hair, though currently unbraided, laid on her pillow majestically. Her white gown remained bright and luxurious even if it was stained by mud, and slightly torn. Brecht left to again rally the crew, but couldn't shake the distinct feeling that Lily was staring a bit too much...
The following day was uneventful, except that it took the entire day to cover half the distance it took the company to travel in a day on the first trip. Brecht was disgusted. He spent a full hour lambasting the troops for their shoddy work, which he believed to be responsible for their sluggish pace. On top of that, the strange feeling he had from the sorceress's curse had yet to fade. In fact, it was more pronounced than ever.
Brecht awoke the next day, eager to start the carriages moving again. He took a look at himself in the mirror first, as was his morning custom. Since he had been away from civilization for half a week, he had grown accustomed to an unkempt growth of a beard on his face. He noticed that today, however, that it had not grown a bit. In fact, it almost looked thinner than it was the day before. Puzzled by this, he began preparing the men for departure.
Before the carriages were off, Brecht made sure to check on the princess. She was still unconscious, but at least Lily was not skulking about her today.
No sooner had the carriages moved more than a hundred feet, a great mass of humanoid creatures had descended upon them, clearly set up for an ambush. After observing them for a moment, Brecht concluded that they were orcs. Foul, hairy, ill-smelling beasts were orcs. There were about two dozen of them, and they were all armed with cruel-looking spears. Brecht already had his armor on and his weapon with him, so he rallied his soldiers into combat with the beasts.
Brecht's well-trained squad of soldiers fought stoutly against the barbarous, poorly-organized creatures. Brecht, however, was feeling decidedly off this day. His sword seemed uncharacteristically heavy, and it seemed his armor wasn't fitting him properly. It didn't help that he would occasionally see a soldier look over his way, hoping for a glimpse of the martial prowess he was rumored to have displayed back in the cavern, only to see Brecht clumsily swing his blade at an orc, only by luck having it strike the creature in a vital area.
The soldiers eventually defeated the orc band, suffering no deaths. One soldier had been struck squarely by a crude orc spear, and was bedridden. Brecht was especially harsh with the crew today, angry because of his abysmal performance in the skirmish and because they had lost another day of travel. By the time the company was heading to bed, the soldiers looked mutinous.
Brecht found the next day even more unsettling. He woke even earlier than before, determined to make up for lost time. He checked his face in the mirror, and to his surprise, found his formerly full facial hair reduced to a stubble. He gaped at it for a few moments, rubbing his hands along its smooth surface. He then noticed that it wasn't just his facial hair that was different - his face looked strange, almost as if it were younger? He checked the rest of his body for abnormalities. His chest and arm hair had all but vanished. He ran to his trunk and quickly put on his pants. Sure enough, they were noticeably loose on him. Brecht couldn't believe what was happening, surely the sorceress's curse couldn't have made him younger. The magic to do such a thing was incredibly powerful, none are said to have mastered it. He decided to measure himself. He found an instrument for estimating lengths in his trunk, and used it to determine his height. He was shocked to find that he had indeed shrunk almost two inches. He concentrated for a bit, and then determined that he must be about sixteen now.
Brecht, in spite of this, set out to get the camp moving again. Some of the soldiers gave Brecht strange looks. Brecht feared that they were noticing what was happening. That was why they had to hurry even more. He again visited the princess, and wasn't surprised to find that she had not awaken. However, Lady Lily was there again.
"You know, you should probably give up on the princess." Lily commented nonchalantly. "I've heard that she prefers older men." She finished with a dry smile.
So she knew. Brecht merely stared at her, determined to not allow her the satisfaction of angering him. He looked once more upon the princess's face and strode out the door. He could hear Lily's high, cold laugh as he made his way to the lead carriage.
The day's trip was slow and uneventful. Again, it seemed that they had covered only half the ground than they had on the first trip. Brecht again complained heartily to the soldiers, who somehow seemed less intimidated this time.
The next day was even worse for Brecht. He sat up from his bed to find the room noticeably larger since he last saw it. A quick rub of his face told him that his facial hair had disappeared completely. An identical fate had befallen his chest and arm hairs. The hair on his legs was getting sparse as well. He held his hands in front of his eyes. They were no longer the manly, wide hands calloused from extensive sword drills. They were the shaking, awkward hands of a child in the midst of puberty. Tentatively, he reached down towards his groin. His pubic hair wasn't the full, voluminous mass he remembered from the day before. Instead, it was a sparse, velvety growth. His penis had clearly lost mass as well. Brecht shuddered, wondering how he was going to face his soldiers. He measured himself again, and found that he had lost another three inches in the night. He guessed his age to be about fourteen now.
"What am I going to do?" He asked himself, his voice plainly cracking. Brecht paced about his tent for about a half hour, just thinking of what was going to happen to him, and what he would do for now. Perhaps he could say he's a younger cousin, and that Brecht wasn't feeling well? No, that wouldn't work, people would be coming by Brecht's quarters to check on him. Maybe he could pretend nothing happened, and do his duties as normal? That would never work, he had lost almost half a foot of height already. Or he could...
Brecht was spared the task of fabricating such a lie, as Lily suddenly strode into Brecht's chamber.
"Lily!" Brecht squeaked. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh my... Is that you, Captain Brecht?” Lily said softly, already knowing the answer to her question.
“Yes, it’s me.” Brecht replied, straightening his posture in a bid to seem taller. “Now what are you doing in my chamber?”
Lily smiled maliciously before responding. “I’ve just come by to see how you’re managing the curse. Looks to me like it’s working as expected.”
“What? How much do you know about it?”
“This particular curse, the Curse of Retrogression as it is called, is one of the most powerful of curses. It is only able to be used in very few circumstances. The victim will become younger, usually at a rate of two or more years an eve. This reduces the cursee to the status of an infant in nearly every instance. Usually, the magic will wear off and the curse’s recipient will grow up again, but there are precedents when they will be in this state permanently.” Lily recited, in monotone. She then grinned at Brecht again.
Brecht’s face paled. He desperately asked, “Is there a cure?”
“Only powerful wizards who have studied in specific branches of magic are capable of casting or even knowing of the existence of the counterspell.” Lily detailed fondly.
Brecht had nothing to say. Things were running through his mind: Do any of the kingdom’s wizards know the counterspell? Will they bother to cast it for me? Fourteen... two days.... I have a week....
Lily interrupted his thoughts. “Shall I say you’re not well today? I can inform one of the lieutenants to start the day’s march, if you are unable.”
“Fine. Tell them to hurry.” Brecht replied, venom in his voice, higher though it was.
“But of course.” Lily said, barely sarcastic. She then slipped out of the tent.
Brecht slumped back down on his bed. It was nearly the time when he would usually be rallying the troops. “If all goes well”, he thought to himself, “we should be back to the castle tomorrow. I’ll be twelve by then, so I should be okay to request an audience with the kingdom’s wizards.”
After brooding for another twenty minutes or so, Brecht decided to check on the soldiers and make sure they were doing their jobs at a good pace. They would have to pack up his tent and belongings soon, anyway. He tied his belt tightly, owing to the fact that his pants were quite large on him now. He put on his boots and found that the cuffs pants almost completely swallowed them. His also had to roll up his sleeves as he found they obscured his hands otherwise. He walked out of the tent, looking longingly at the armor he was once large enough to wear.
Brecht found that the soldiers were making good times with their errands; the lieutenant was surely competent. Brecht endeavored to remain out of sight, as he didn’t want his troops to see him in his current state. He was succeeding at this task quite well, until he went to check on how the horses were doing.
He walked around the corner of a tent, and then ran straight into a soldier. His head collided with the soldier’s chest, it was lucky that this particular man wasn’t wearing armor. The soldier began apologizing.
“Sorry ‘bout that, mate, didn’t see ya...” He stopped as he saw who it was. “Hey, who are you?”
“Err,” Brecht started, not sure if he should tell the truth or not. The soldier didn’t seem to be a distinctly mean-spirited fellow, so he continued: “It’s me, Brecht.”
“Oh yes, I think ol’ Lady Lily was talkin’ about something like this. Didn’t really believe her at first, though.”
“Don’t worry, it’s only temporary.” Brecht lied.
“Oh, of course, sir. Hope you get better soon.” The soldier said, and then clapped Brecht on the shoulder and wandered off.
“So Lily told them about me, then. Great.” Brecht murmured to himself.
Despite all his hardships, Brecht paid his daily visit to the princess. She was still unconscious, of course, but Brecht couldn't help but admire her beauty. He went to her side, appreciating her delicate, perfect face. His gaze trailed downwards to her bounteous breasts, barely veiled by the thin fabric of her gown. Brecht could swear that he could almost see her nipples if he looked hard enough...
It was then that Brecht realized a stirring in his loins. He looked down to see a raging erection, making quite a tent of his oversized pants and shirt. He immediately looked around to see if anybody was watching, then retreated to the lead carriage.
The carriage ride that day was torture for Brecht. He had to share the carriage with two of the soldiers in the troop. They were some of the younger fellows, about nineteen or so each. It enraged Brecht to see those he always regarded as youth towering over him, making snide comments about Brecht's regression that they didn't bother to keep private. Almost as bad, it seemed that the troop went even slower this day. Brecht went to sleep very bitter indeed.
Having fallen asleep in his clothes, Brecht awoke to find himself swimming in them. He was even tinier now, having almost all of puberty robbed from him overnight. Brecht climbed out of bed and stood up. His pants were far too large for him now, not even attempting to stay on. His shirt was positively gigantic compared to him, one of his shoulders was peeking through the collar. He stripped it off of himself, and had a look at his body. His pubic area was completely devoid of hair, and his penis was substantially smaller than it formerly was. Brecht ran a tiny hand along his smooth genitalia, noting that his scrotum had retracted. He looked at his thin arms, a feeble shadow of the muscular appendages they once were. His legs were now skinny and entirely hairless. He didn’t bother measure himself today, but he estimated that he had lost about five inches of height. Hastily throwing his shirt and pants back on and tying his belt even tighter, he ran outside to look at the surroundings. He wanted to check the local scenery to learn where they were the night before, but it was too dark. After a few moments of study, Brecht had a firm idea of where they were now. And, he calculated, that it would be all but impossible for them to make it back to the kingdom today.
Brecht kneeled down in despair. What was taking them so long? After a few moments of depression, Brecht pulled himself together and got up. It was still fairly early, and he decided to surreptitiously find some clothes more suited to his current stature. As luck would have it, he found some in a stash of extra clothes. They were slightly worn, and were a few measurements too small. Brecht knew this would change soon, however. He suddenly wondered what such clothing was doing in the possession of a military expedition’s stores. He figured they were perhaps tossed in there by accident, and not noticed (or, more likely, noticed but not immediately acted upon).
Again Brecht skulked in the shadows of the encampment, watching the workings of the crew. He noted that they were becoming increasingly lazy and unhasty with their duties. He fumed to himself, knowing that he couldn’t do anything about it, not in his current state.
Brecht watched the crew for another half hour or so until he met up with Lily. She was striding about, seemingly looking for something.
“Oh, there you are, Brecht. I was just wondering where you were.” She said to him. Brecht noticed, with dismay, that he had to look up to Lily this time. At their last meeting, Brecht had stood slightly taller than her, but he was now shorter than her by a few inches. Lily noticed this too, but was understandably happier about it.
“What do you want, Lily?” Brecht snarled.
“The men and I just wanted to make sure that you were around. Can’t have you wandering off on us, now.” Lily said, in a clearly patronizing tone.
“Why, you-“ Brecht started, but was interrupted by a new voice. A soldier had come up from behind him, and was addressing Lily.
“Lady Lily, the preparations are nearly finished. We’ll be leaving soon.” He said curtly, then bowed. He looked to Brecht, placed a hand upon his head, and tousled up his hair. “Hey there, little Brecht.” The soldier then turned and left, smiling to himself.
Brecht was too shocked to speak. Being treated like a child, by his own men! “You heard him, ‘little’ Brecht. We leave soon.” Lily said, and then left.
Still bewildered by this newest disrespect, Brecht slowly trudged off towards the carriages.
Seated in one of the carriages with three of the soldiers while being in a twelve-year-old body was not Brecht’s idea of fun. The three, who Brecht would boss and berate on a normal day, were now peppering their regressed Captain with slews of taunting remarks. Brecht tried to keep calm under it all, but eventually lost his temper, to the laughter of the soldiers.
Brecht never felt so humiliated in his life. Once a proud, powerful warrior, he was now a prepubescent child at the mercy of those he used to consider subordinates.
Waking up the next day, Brecht kept his eyes closed for countless minutes before throwing back the bed sheets and getting up. He looked down in despair at himself. The outfit that the day before had been loose-fitting was now ill-fitting in the opposite respect. He peeked into his baggy pants and noted with dismay that his penis had vanished almost completely, leaving only a round nub in its place. With some trepidation Brecht got out of his bed, stood up, and fetched his mirror. Looking into it, he was greeted with the fair, cherubic face of an unhappy child.
Brecht walked outside, waiting for the team to prepare for the day’s travels. He grimly noted that they were not making better progress since the past few days. He then remember something: he had forgotten to check on the princess yesterday! Hoping that Lily wasn’t there again, he rushed off toward the tent she was housed in. Brecht found her in the same condition he last saw her in. He cursed to himself, then wondered exactly why he was still concerned with her status. After all, she wouldn’t be impressed with her rescuer if he was currently ten years old. Thinking about this, Brecht left her tent and waited for the troop to get going.
Brecht ignored the daily ribbings from his carriagemates this day, or at least did, until they decided to advance beyond the verbal kind of taunt.
“Why don’t ya say somethin’, kid? Huh?” Asked one of them, a thin, mean-faced individual. Brecht merely gave him a stony glare. He received a swift punch in the arm for it.
“Ow!” Exclaimed Brecht, rubbing his arm. It earnestly hurt. “I’m still a Captain! I can get you expelled from service for this!” He continued, in his high-pitched voice.
“Heh. I don’t think so, Cap’n.” Stated another soldier, who possessed a stout, muscular physique and a bushy mustache. “If the Lady has her way, we won’t be getting back to civilization until you’re in diapers.”
“Shh!” Said the third, a handsome young man with long golden hair. “He’s not supposed to know!”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. Look at him, what’s he going to do?” The second soldier replied, gesturing to Brecht, who was looking uncommonly pathetic, holding his arm and nearly fighting back tears.
“Don’t start crying now, boy!” Crowed his assailant.
Brecht couldn’t take it anymore. He launched a puny, poorly aimed fist at the first soldier, who seized it and twisted it behind Brecht’s back.
“Surrender!” He cried, painfully twisting Brecht’s arm.
“Never!” Brecht replied, weakly trying to escape his grasp. The soldier only began twisting harder. Brecht was in real pain, and was ready to cry. Trying to hold them back, he tried a new gambit. He uttered the phrases to a paralyze spell, expecting his attacker to be stricken with magical electricity and fall prone. The soldier merely received a faint electrical tickle. Brecht then realized what should have been obvious all along: kids can’t use magic. Discovering this, he broke out in tears and started kicking his opponent in the shins.
“Hey, stop that! I’m warning you!” The soldier said. With that, he forced Brecht to the floor of the carriage. He then relinquished his hold on Brecht to quickly strip off his already loose clothing and unceremoniously toss his nude form out of the carriage.
Lying in the dirt road, Brecht heard the soldiers speaking in the carriage as it rolled away.
“I think you overdid it, Sten.”
“Naw, he needed to be taught a lesson. He’ll make it back to camp, but he’ll pay for what he did - tonight and when he was Captain.”
Though he was in great pain, Brecht got up and looked around. The last of the carriages were passing him by, so he quickly leapt onto one. Praying that Lily or someone as foul as his last crew weren’t in it, he skittishly slipped inside, covering his crotch with his hands. Thankfully, there was only one person in this carriage: a man Brecht recognized as friendly. It was the man Brecht had bumped into a couple days ago, who had seemed sympathetic towards his plight. Right now, the man was sleeping, sitting in a chair with his arms folded over his chest. Brecht noted that the reason he was the only one in this carriage was because the supplies were kept in it, stored in crates that were messily strewn about.
“Err, ahem.” Brecht squeaked to the dozing man. Eliciting no response, he walked up to him and gently pushed him.
“Argh! Who’s there?!” The man shouted, surprised to find a naked, dark-haired youth staring at him. “Eh? Is that you, Brecht?”
“Yes, it’s me.” Brecht replied, looking down.
“What’re you doin’ here, without any clothes on?” The man said, bewildered.
Brecht told him the story.
“The devils. Well, don’t worry, I think I have a tunic here you can wear, let me see...” He looked around in a box or two, and indeed produced a tunic made for a grown man. He also gave Brecht some simple sandals. Brecht slipped on the tunic, which reached down to his knees, and put on the sandals, which were significantly larger than his feet.
An uncomfortable silence followed. Brecht was the first to speak up.
“So, why are you in this carriage?”
The man looked mildly surprised. “Don’t you remember, Captain? I’m the quartermaster. Name’s Rufus, by the way.”
Brecht thought about this. It was true, he had almost no idea of the jobs of any of his men. And Rufus’s was the first name he had bothered to learn, either.
“We should be stopping soon. It’s getting dark.” Said Rufus.
“What?” Brecht spat, looking out the window. “We still have a good two or three hours of travel left!”
Rufus shrugged. “It’s the way Lily’s been running things. Don’t know why she fancies takin’ so much time, though....”
“She wants to get back by the time I’m...” Brecht couldn’t say it. “When I’m younger. Thinks she’ll be able to get rid of me easier, I’d guess.”
“Hmm.” Rufus raised an eyebrow. “What’s she got against you, anyway?”
“It’s...” But again, Brecht couldn’t say.
“If she’s lookin’ to slow down the troops, why don’t you go and get ‘em to hurry up?”
Brecht shook his head. “They all hate me. They’d love to see Lily take me out of the picture.”
Rufus didn’t say anything for a long time. After a long wait, he said: “I don’t hate you, Brecht. You were just doing your job as Captain. I’ll see if I can’t get the rest of the troops to hurry it up. Maybe if we get back fast enough, them wizards at the castle’ll be able to do something for ya.”
“Thanks.” Was all Brecht could say.
Not long afterward, the carriages ground to a halt. The troops set up camp, and Brecht retired to his tent. After a while, he heard a commotion coming towards him. The entrance to his tent opened, and Lily walked in. Brecht could clearly see a large crowd outside, but none of them entered.
“Captain Brecht, I must inform you: the princess has regained consciousness. She requested an audience with you, but I told her that you weren’t feeling well.”
Brecht didn’t get a chance to respond, as the princess burst in through the tent’s flap. “Lady Lily, where is the Captain?”
“Your Majesty,” Replied Lily. “You must lie back down! Your injuries have not yet healed.”
“I feel fine, Lady, and I demand to speak with the Captain.”
“Well, as you command.” Said Lily, with a satisfied sort of smile. “He’s right here.” She finished, gesturing to Brecht.
“What? Surely this is some jest. This child is the Captain?”
Lily opened her mouth to speak, but Brecht spoke first. “Yes, Your Majesty, I am the Captain of this expedition, Second-class Spellknight Brecht Uthos. A curse the sorceress cast upon me has led me to this state.” He finished with a bow.
“Well then, Brecht, I thank you for your services to this expedition and to the kingdom.” She looked to Lily, and then continued. “Lady Lily, if you would please let us speak in private.”
Lily looked cross for a moment, and then said, “Of course, Your Majesty.” and swept out the exit.
The princess waited for a few moments to make sure everyone was gone, then spoke. “I must ask: how did you receive this curse? I was told you did not meet the sorceress.”
Brecht gaped in shock, but then replied: “With all due respect, Your Majesty, I was the only one who met the sorceress.” He then recounted the story, changing it as he had for the soldier he told it to days before.
“Then this Sage lied to me. She said that you sent in a squad, but stayed in the camp while they fought. She tried to deny me audience with you, reporting that you had been harmed in an accident.”
“Yes, her treachery goes beyond that, I’m afraid. She is purposefully slowing the progress of our journey to deny me care from the kingdom’s wizards.”
“Hmm...” The princess thought. “You say that the sorceress cast this curse upon you when she was dying?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Then you are beyond help from our wizards. None have the power to retract a Dying Curse.”
Brecht’s face paled.
“However, I think I can help you. Where are we now?”
“I believe we’re near the base of the Obsidian Hills.”
“Good. I know a powerful magician who lives a few days walk from here. He can cure you, if we make it there in time.”
“But, Your Majesty...”
“Call me Sarith. And as you rescued me once, so shall I rescue you.” Brecht was too shocked to say anything. “We must leave soon. And we’ll need supplies.”
“The quartermaster will surely give us what we need.” Brecht replied.
“Can we get a horse?”
Brecht shook his head. “The horsemaster would be suspicious.”
“Let us go.” Sarith said, exiting the tent and beckoning Brecht to do the same. They stealthily made their way to where Rufus and the supplies were stationed. Brecht explained the situation to him, and Rufus gladly gave them the requisite goods.
“I’ll tell Lily I saw you head thataway.” He motioned in a direction opposite of were Brecht and Sarith were actually going. “Be careful.”
The pair then head on their way. They walked until well after nightfall, where they made camp by a stream. They were both too exhausted and aching from their respective injuries to talk, and fell asleep straightaway.
Sarith awoke early in the morning and bathed in the stream. She hadn’t had a bath since she was abducted by the sorceress, so she enjoyed this tremendously. She then went to check on Brecht. He was still asleep. She looked upon him, marveling at how much he had shrunk overnight. He must have lost four inches in height! Traces of baby fat had formed on his face, making him look even cuter, in Sarith’s opinion. She wondered what he looked like grown-up...
Sarith gazed upon him for another few minutes, then shook him awake. Brecht groggily sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Good morning, milady.” He said in his childish voice.
Sarith smiled. Kneeling in front of him, she said: “You know, you really are cute as a kid. Well, let’s get something to eat and get moving.”
Brecht’s face turned red, but Sarith didn’t notice as she walked off to fetch breakfast. He stood up, found that his tunic now nearly covered all of his legs, and followed her. They ate their breakfast of hard tack in silence, and set off after finishing.
About midday Brecht had to stop. “I can’t keep walking. These sandals are far too large, and the ground is harsh.” He was right on both accounts. The sandals were comically large on him, and were also too heavy. The ground was rough, and would surely cut his feet.
“Okay, then.” Sarith said, and kneeled beside him. “Get on.”
“What?” Brecht squealed. “I couldn’t possibly, milady...”
“Oh, come on. It’s the only way we’re going to get there in time.”
Brecht reluctantly climbed onto her back, wrapping his little legs around her waist and his arms about her neck. Sarith stood up, wobbling a bit. She removed Brecht’s sandals from his feet and threw them on the ground. “We won’t need these.” She then continued on, Brecht in tow.
They had to retire before nightfall, as Sarith’s back was too exhausted.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be lighter tomorrow.” Brecht offered with a small chuckle as they were seated around a campire. Sarith managed a laugh, then went to sleep. Brecht watched the fire burn for a while, then fell asleep as well.
Brecht awoke to find Sarith looming over him. “Did you have a bed-wetting problem when you were little, Brecht?” She asked, with a trace of a smile. Brecht wondered what she was talking about until he registered that his lower body was soaked in a cold fluid. He looked to find that the blanket he slept had a large, discolored spot where it was wet. He took it off himself and saw that his tunic was similarly drenched where his groin was. The unmistakable odor of urine was in the air.
“We’ll have to leave this.” Sarith said, picking up the blanket and throwing it. “And you’ll have to get a change of clothes.”
Brecht’s face was a bright red. He had wet himself in his sleep in front of the woman he once lusted for. He stood up, almost tripping over his tunic. It enveloped his feet now, and the sleeves were ludicrously long to him. “That was getting too big for you anyways.” Sarith called, seeing him stand up. “This will fit much better.” She held up a new tunic, just about his size. “I took some material and sewing supplies from the quartermaster, and made this today.” She explained. She then gave it to him.
Brecht began lifting off his clothing, then noticed Sarith watching him. “Err, this is the only thing I’m wearing right now.” He meekly said.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. You’re going to have to take a bath in a moment anyway.”
“What? A bath?”
“Yes, a bath.” Sarith replied in exasperation, grabbing him by the hand. She led him over to the river they had camped by.
“Why do you have to watch?” Brecht protested.
Sarith motioned to the river, which was moving quite fast. “You’ll get hurt unless I help you. Now come on.” She grabbed his tunic, and swiftly yanked it off him. Brecht cried in surprise and covered himself with the one hand that Sarith hadn’t grabbed. She led him towards the rushing river, and into it. Sarith kneeled on the bank while Brecht was submerged up to his waist in the river. Still holding his hand, she pulled a rag out of one of her pockets and began washing Brecht’s upper body. After she deemed herself satisfied, she pulled him out of the river and retrieved a dry towel and made to dry him off.
“I can do it!” Brecht said indignantly, and took the towel from her.
“Alright. Come and have breakfast, and we can get going.”
Brecht finished drying himself and put on the tunic Sarith had made. Immediately after putting it on, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. He looked and saw that a pin had been left in it. He pulled it out, and took a closer look at the tunic. It was crudely stitched in most areas, and Brecht noted that one sleeve was distinctly shorter than the other. Clearly Sarith was not a good seamstress. On his way back to the camp, Brecht noticed just how small he had become. Everything seemed much, much larger than it was before; the walk back to the camp seemed to stretch forever. Brecht guessed his height to be less than four feet now.
After eating breakfast, the two were off again. Sarith was again carrying Brecht, and they made better time this day, thanks to Brecht’s reduced weight. As it grew dark and they were upon an unusually tough stretch of road, Sarith decided to stop. She alerted Brecht, but he had fallen asleep on her back. Smiling, she laid him down and set up camp. Remembering that they had discarded Brecht’s soiled blanket, Sarith wondered where he would sleep. Not bothering to wake him, Sarith laid her blanket over him and snuggled up next to him, falling asleep.
Brecht woke up, realizing he was surrounded by something... something breathing. He turned his head and saw that it was Sarith. Brecht was surprised to see this, but also pleased. He feigned sleep for the next hour or so, feeling Sarith’s breath on his neck, and her breasts pressing up against his back. Eventually Sarith woke up, tossing the blanket off the both of them.
“Wake up, Brecht. We’re almost there.”
Brecht rolled over, and stood up. He truly was a child now, with a round, babyish face, short, pudgy limbs, and he had developed a wobbly, unsteady gait. He looked up at Sarith.
“Oh my, Brecht. You’re really cute now.” She couldn’t resist the urge to bend over and give him a hug. “Let’s have breakfast and get going. We should be able to get there by today.”
They ate their hard tack and proceeded. Brecht was so light now, Sarith occasionally forgot that he was there. After about five hours of walking, they finally made it to their destination. It was a small, thatched hut that had small amounts of smoke flowing from its chimney.
“This wizard friend of yours lives here?” Brecht asked.
“Yes. He is a kind old man, but be polite. He can sometimes deny requests if the right mood strikes him.” Sarith instructed. Brecht said nothing.
Sarith let Brecht down and knocked on the door of the hut. A rustling was heard, and the door opened. An old man, eighty at least, stood before them. He had a long, braided white beard, but no hair on his head. He wore spectacles of a curious shape, and stood on two short wooden stilts.
“Klula, what are you doing here?” He wheezed, though he looked happy to see her. “And who wouldst this be? Your son, mayhaps?”
“This is Brecht, and no, he’s not my son.” Sarith replied, smiling. “And he’s the reason I’ve come to you.”
“Eh? And why wouldst that be?” The old man said, looking from Brecht to Sarith.
“He had the Curse of Retrogression put upon him, Barton.” Sarith said.
“Oh, yes, I can see now. The look of uncanny intelligence and maturity in him. Well, we may be able to help him, we’ll see...” Said Barton, suddenly serious. “Come in, come in.”
Sarith and Brecht followed him inside. The walls of the hut were covered with all manner of strange instruments and tables were piled high with books and vials of mixtures.
“First, I’ll have to perform a test.” Barton said, waving his hands around to cast a spell. A blue haze surrounded Brecht momentarily, and Barton concentrated for a bit. “Aye. This is possible. This part may be slightly uncomfortable, however.” With that, Barton cast another spell that knocked Brecht off his feet and into unconsciousness.
Brecht woke to blurry images and hazy sounds. He couldn’t move his body. He heard Sarith’s voice speak to him.
“He did it, Brecht. You’re back to normal.”
His vision slowly returned, and he became able to move his body. He sat up, and noticed that he was lying on the floor with only a blanket covering him, but more importantly, he was an adult again. He looked down at his large, chiseled torso and flexed his muscular arms. He then laughed with joy.
“Where’s Barton? I want to thank him.” Brecht said, standing up.
“He’s finishing up part of the spell in the other chamber.” Sarith answered.
Soon afterwards, Barton walked into the chamber, holding an object wrapped in a black cloth.
“Oh, sorry about that. Allow me...” He said, and chanted a spell. Brecht, who had been wearing only a blanket, was now clothed in fine garments by virtue of Barton’s spell.
“Thank you for everything, Barton. I owe you one.”
“Nay, it is I who owe you, for saving my Klula. Also, I still have a gift to give.” Barton said, unveiling the black cloth-wrapped object. It was a short sword, and it was exquisitely crafted.
“It is a fine sword.” Brecht said, moving to take it.
“There is more to this sword than is readily apparent, Brecht.” Said Barton. “The spell that Tyria cast upon you was a strong one indeed, only able to be cast under the most dire of circumstances. Rather than let it go to waste, I harnessed it and imbued it into this sword. Its blade will not pierce flesh, rather, it will steal years if it is plunged into a creature.”
Brecht gazed in awe at it, and lifted it from Barton’s hands. “But what will I do if I accidentally strike myself with it?” He asked.
“Shouldst that happen, merely twist the hilt of the blade.” Barton instructed. Brecht twisted it, and it turned. The blade momentarily glowed green. “If it has last glowed green, then it will return years stored in it to whomsoever it cuts. If it last glowed red, then it will take.”
“This is truly a great gift. Thank you,” Brecht said.
“Klula tells me there is someone who deserves the sting of this blade. I only ask that this be done.”
Brecht looked at Sarith. She said, “Yes, Lily does indeed deserve it. Do so, and we will tell my father she was killed tragically, and that we found an abandoned infant on the way back.”
Brecht grinned, and twisted the handle on the blade back.
“I will transport you both back to your camp. Goodbye,” Barton said, and began casting another spell. Brecht and Sarith said their goodbyes, and then found themselves back at the camp. It seemed to be largely deserted; the soldiers were presumably searching for them. Brecht stopped by his tent to fetch his regular sword, and then headed to Lily’s tent.
He walked in and found Lily perusing a large tome propped up on a pedestal. She noticed his entry immediately, however, and spun to face him.
“You!” she spat.
“Yes, me,” Brecht smiled, and drew the short sword.
“You wouldn’t!” Lily shrieked, a wooden staff darting to her hands. Brecht swung the blade at her, but she parried it expertly with the staff.
“You know how to handle a weapon,” Brecht stated.
“I know more than you’d think!” Lily sneered, spinning her staff around to attack Brecht. Brecht unsheathed his other blade, and began to fight in earnest. They exchanged blows for a few moments, before Brecht managed to plunge the short sword into Lily’s side.
“Ungh... what trickery is this?” Lily gasped, as she noticed the blade hadn’t killed her.
“You’ll see,” Brecht replied, pulling the weapon back out. He backed up, and watched the changes.
Almost instantly the faint crow’s feet around Lily’s eyes vanished. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she started to become shorter. Her face lost the look of an adult woman and adopted the visage of a teenager. Her breasts, not particularly large in the first place, began to recede back into her chest. Her billowing robes became even more billowing, as she was shrinking inside of them.
“What? No!” She shouted, aware of what was happening. Her face was now that of a girl just entering puberty, and her breasts were reduced to mere bumps, but that was difficult to tell from the large robes. More years left her, and she was now a young girl floundering in too-large robes. Backing up, she tripped on her clothing. Lily fell backwards, landing on her rear. Her voluminous robes slipped down her chest, revealing to Lily her skinny body and insignificant breasts.
“How? What magic is this?” Lily squeaked, her previous dignity lost to the ignobility of childhood.
She started to bawl as she slipped further back, becoming a chubby toddler then helpless infant. Brecht walked over and lifted the naked child from her clothing. Not long afterward, Sarith came in through the tent’s flap.
“Aww, she’s so cute,” she cooed. Brecht handed the child over to her.
“I’m going to get the men started on the leaving preparation. As soon as the rest get back, we can leave,” Brecht said. Sarith nodded.
As Brecht turned to leave, Sarith touched his arm. “There will be time for that later. First, help me with the little one.”
Brecht smiled and rubbed Lily’s chin playfully. She grumpily swatted it away with a pudgy hand. “Ooh, she’s a feisty one. Make sure you use some extra lotion on this one.”
Sarith smiled and handed Lily back to Brecht. Kneeling over the empty robes, she tore off a swath of material and set it down on Lily’s bed. She motioned for Brecht to hand her the infant, and he passed her the squealing Lily. Sarith placed her down on the cut of cloth, and wrapped it around her waist in a makeshift diaper. Plopping her down on the bed, Sarith admired her handiwork.
“She is pretty cute,” Brecht said.
“Not as cute as you would have been.”
Brecht shrugged and lifted the flap of the tent. “I’ll call the men back. We will be leaving soon.” Sarith waved and he left the tent.
All of the men came back by nightfall, and they left the next day. Most of the soldiers vaguely knew what happened to Lily, and they all knew not to say anything about it. Having their Captain back in control, the troop made it back to the kingdom within two more days. Brecht was thanked by the king for his role in rescuing his daughter, and Sarith was glad to get back to civilization. And, presumably, they all lived happily ever after.
Brecht managed to get the three bullying soldiers ejected from service, and he promoted Rufus to lieutenant. Lily was reported dead to the Sage’s guild, but was really given to the kingdom’s orphanage. Brecht eventually became a general in the king’s army, and went on to great success, living for hundreds of years thanks to his blade. The question of whether or not he and Sarith got together is left to one’s imagination.