A forced biological change, it wasn't something that could just happen overnight. In a normal world, Evolution took hundreds of years to start showing such effects, The old world wasn't exactly normal. For creatures it took only months to years in order to develop "changes", mutations that set them apart from their main branch. The story goes that the Ancients had a sect that tried breaking the "code" in order to gain such adaptive traits. A failed endeavour of course, but stories say they had made "progress", developed a way to cause the human body to develop particular mutations.
It was a painful process, with a high mortality rate, but to survive it… it was worth it in the end.
Still. Ashe just bit her lips, staring at the six year old that seemed to toss and turn in bed, trapped in a fever born nightmare. Those few times his eyes opened, she saw hysteria dance within them, before they shut themselves once more. He clawed at his throat, as if trying to remove something that was trying to strangle him, He screamed, he sweated blood. She didn't know a body that small could hold so much blood in it.
Ashe bit her lip as she stared at the sight, her hands tightly folded in her lap as she resisted the urge to hold her adoptive child's hands to show she was still there. "Did I look like this when I started feeling the changes?" She wondered aloud, hearing her child gasp for breath. "No I… don't think so." Ashe muttered before untying her hands as she reached for a cloth and drenched it in a bucket of water, before wiping the six year old's head. "I was… older than you when my master took me in, let alone when I started feeling the changes brought by the herbs." She muttered before resting a hand by her child's cheek. That caused him to jump slightly before he tilted his head into her palm. "I knew it would hurt you, undergoing this ritual, I still put you under it anyway." Ashe muttered. "I tried mediating the effects, granting you a lower dosage than what I was given over the years, and yet…" She paused, hearing her child scream. "It seems it still hurts you." She told him, moving her hand before grabbing one of those stubby arms of his. "I'm sorry." She muttered. "No words can make up for what I I'me putting you through right now." Falling silent she just heard another scream fill her home as she grabbed her the childs hand. "I know it hurts, but…" Aun walked into her hut, nudged her as Aun spared her a glance. "What parent, adoptive or not, does this to their child?" Aun rested her head on Ashe's lap. "All to carry on an all but forgotten legacy?" Ashe heard a whimper, one that wasn't from her child as she glanced at the door, only to find Oum and his pups peaking into the house. The pups were scared, unsure if they should come closer or not. All save for one anyway.
Four small paws waddled into the room as the wulg pup tried getting a look at Ashe's pup.
"Garm." The pup didn't seem to hear her, just whimpering as they tried looking at the six year old Gales. Garm, she could recognize this pup anywhere. All pups have their habits and traits, little Garm, he had been practically glued to little Gales since they both started walking. Without a doubt this one would follow the child into the heart of a Rathalos Nest without a second thought. She smiled at that, though it was one short lived as little Garm looked at her. Whimpering as he did. "He'll be fine." She wasn't sure if she was trying to reassure the pup, or herself. The death toll for this was high, almost too high. Sure she survived it herself, but Gales? Well only time will tell.
Until then, Ashe didn't leave his side.
Seven days, that was how long the "fever" and the nightmare lasted.
Ashe just sighed in relief, looking at the now peacefully sleeping six year old in bed. These sheets were gonna have to go, considering all the blood they had collected. Honestly Ashe didn't really care. Instead she focused on the child's breathing as she smiled. It was over, the "ritual", the mutations had finished coming into existence. Ashe kissed Gale's forehead, patting his hand before letting it go. "Well done." She muttered before getting to her feet and
Stepped outside, patting Aun's head as she did. Only for the mother wulg to follow her. Taking a minute to stretch Ashe simply stared at the cloudy morning staring at Oum resting with five of the six pups - little Garm still waiting in the hut to see if little Gales would wake up.
"That was an ordeal." Ashe admitted. "In all our years Aun, I've seen and hurt a lot of people and creatures." The woman thought aloud. "Killed a great many too." Aun made a noise. "But this one." She continued with a noise. "I didn't think seeing a child suffer like that was so difficult." She looked to Aun. "I… don't want to see that again." She stated. "I don't want to be responsible for that kind of pain." She gave her partner a weak smile. "You know, my master wasn't the most affectionate person." She confessed. "Though he trained me, he didn't "raise" me. He always kept this distance between us. I always thought that it was because he didn't really like me for some reason." She paused. "I think, I think I understand why he kept that distance though." She fell mute for a moment. "It wasn't just because he knew the herbs might prove fatal, it was because he knew it would hurt more, when you actually cared for the one you were giving them to. Watching them thrash like that, knowing they might die because of what you fed them those herbs…" She paused. "It hurts." Again Ashe fell silent as she returned to gazing at the sky. "I don't think I'll give him the "second course"." She mused with a smile. "Yes, the second set of herbs would without a doubt benefit him later on, just as they did me, but after seeing him go through that…" She nodded to herself. "I don't think I want to go through "that experience again." She mused before patting her stomach before dropping it lower. "Besides… it would be nice if he could grant a mother grandchildren later on." She looked to Aun with a smirk. "Don't you think?"
Aun nodded before wandering back into the hut picked up little Garm and brought him outside to get some air. Ashe took that as her cue to wander back inside looking at her successor as she ran a finger through his hair. "You know, this is a curious color it chose." She lifted a few strands of hair, hair that was once pure white was now mostly purple.
This, she knew right away wasn't normal, let alone an effect of the herbs. No this was something more… "natural". On the fourth day, while still in a feverish nightmare, his hair had started changing color. She didn't think about it then, but now that she wasn't worried about him dying, well…
"I wonder what mutation could cause this." She muttered to herself. Some subspecies of animals tended to have altered colorations, but this was new, new to her at least. "You know Ashe." She started talking to herself. "Squids, octopus, and cuttlefish, can change their color due to special cells to better blend into their surroundings." She told herself. "It's caused by a type of sac built into their bodies filled with pigment. This color change allows them to better evade dangerous predators." She mused. "At the same time, their not the only ones with a trick like that." She started to mutter. "Chameleons perform structural changes that affect how light reflects off their skin." She fell silent. "That's due to two layers of cells that possess special components organized in certain ways." She tugged a strand of hair and made a noise. Using those as reference point~ I'd say your hair possesses a very unique pigment formation that allows you to change its color." She let go of the hair. "Though purple… how you got that color is beyond me." She mused with a smile. "Still it doesn't look too bad on you." She resisted chuckling. "And given it's purple most people will likely think it's just dye." She stated off handedly. "Still." She paused. "The Eyes of beasthood and now the "hair of a chameleon"." She shook her head. "What else are "you" hiding little one?" She asked before watching her adoptive child open his eyes and try to look at her.
"Ashe~?" He sounded like he was still sleeping.
"I'm here little one." She muttered moving so that he could get a better look at her. In the dark of the hunt she found those eyes of his glowing a bit as he reached for her. Ashe just took hold ofg those stubs he called arms and held onto them.
"I had a bad dream." Ashe felt her smile slip as she heard the words. Of course that was what he thought it was. Just a really bad dream.
"I know." She paused. "It's over now though." She told him, promised him. "You're going to be ok. You're safe." She whispered.
"Can I sleep with you though?" Ashe felt her smile return. "Please?"
"Of course." She really wanted him out of those bloody sheets anyway; With how much blood he had sweated out, there was no way she was going to let him stay in them much longer. Besides, there was no way she was going to let him wake up surrounded by his own dried blood. Ashe didn't even want to consider how he'd react to such a revelation. So without much prompting she lifted her half asleep six year old up and brought him over to her bed and settled down next to him.
"You shouldn't thank me." Ashe told him. She was responsible for this "bad dream" anyway. "Just know it's over." She told him. "That bad dream, it won't happen again. Ok?" She didn't get a response. "Gales?" The six year old was already out again, little fingers clutching her top as she just smiled. "Good night, my son."
A few weeks later
"Gales!" Tiny feet ran, letting leaf and stone sound off beneath them. Gales just smiled, reaching the ledge that opened towards the clearing. "Gales." Reaching it, he carefully - well, as carefully as a six year old could be - pulled himself over the edge and dropped to the hill level below. "Honestly where did that boy go?" Looking back up the six year old heard a whimper, and found Garm, looking down at him, pacing back and forth as if trying to find a way down. Without much prompting he raised his hands to try reaching for the pup who still seemingly uncertain felt its ears start to droop as they just looked down.
"I gotcha." Garm just continued pacing before ducking down, seeming to reach for the six year old he had followed before hopping down, landing in the child's arms. Gales just smiled as Garm's tail kept wagging left and right as they licked his face before being put down. That done he patted the young Wulg's head before running off heading towards the plains where a pack of Aptonoth rested and enjoyed the grass brought by a late spring.
He just smiled, wandering up to one of the Aptonoth as it just stared at him, what might either be confusion or curiosity or indifference on their face. Then once he was close enough he started feeling its face, grinning all the while. It nudged him, and he nudged it back before moving his hands to his mouth and cupped it.
Then following a deep breath, he made a noise, one not that unlike what an Aptonoth could make. This was an old trick, one Ashe said went back centuries, before the Hunter's Guild managed to figure out how to make fake Resonation Chambers to imitate animal calls. He made another call and the Aptonoth just stared at him before pushing his chest with its head before responding with his own. That response alone was enough to make those beastlike eyes light up.
Little Garm just looked up at him sitting and watching the two go back and forth before making a howl to join in the conversation. The Aptonoth just looked down at him as he got to his feet and bacled, though it came out more like a yelp given his age. His tail wagged at being granted some attention and he started moving left and right.
A distraction granted Gales just took the moment to latch onto the Aptonoth's neck, earning a small noise as he tried climbing onto it.
"So this is where he disappeared to." Ashe muttered, sitting at the edge of the cliff and started looking at sight, her adopted son trying his hardest to climb onto the Aptonoth as Garm just continued wandering from left to right and barking at the taller creature eden when his paws rested on one of the taller creature's limbs as he tried jumping up. "And of course Garm's with him." Aun settled down next to her owner as she looked at the herd, her presence seeming to cause the largest of the Aptonoth to focus on her alone before glancing at her pup. "Don't worry, as long as Garm is safe, we are not a threat to you." Ashe admitted as the alpha looked back to Aun, seeming to stare the wulg down. Seemingly coming to an understanding the alpha just lowered their head, "seeming" to relax. Ashe just looked back at the sight of her student landing on his butt, the Aptonoth not yielding to the fact that he wanted to climb on its neck. She just smiled at the sight before leaning back in her spot.
"Come on~ let me ride you!" The six year old muttered as he tried again, only for the aptonoth to shake him off on his second attempt. "Come on… please?"
"Honestly, him and riding animals." Ashe muttered as she stared at the sight. "I don't know where he gets that from." She admitted. Aun made a noise seemingly shrugging as she rested though not before, looking back in the direction they had come from. "Worried about the rest of your pups?" Ashe asked. "You can go back to see how they're doing if you want." Aun made a noise. "You're right, Oum can look after them." Aun just went back to staring at her pup. Ashe just followed her example watching one pup run circles Garmund a creature much taller than she was as a six year old Gales continued trying to climb on top of the Aptonoth.
He continued to try for thirty minutes before he just started feeding the younger Aptonoth some grass he pulled from the earth.
Another thirty minutes and he was out like a light, little Garm curled up next to him. Ashe took that as her cue, pulling herself from her spot and brought her student and Garm back to their little home.
She set the sleeping pup down next to his father, and her child into bed before turning to let him rest. She stopped though when her attention turned to the few bits of paper that her student had used to draw on. They were terrible of course, but they were adorable at the same time. She made a noise looking at a small hand print preserved in dried clay and smiled as she pressed her hand against it. Aun's call caught her attention as she stepped outside, taking the little hand print with her, and found Aun just sitting outside. "What is it?" Her attention turned to the sky, Ashe looked to see something flying overhead. "That's one of the Wycadamy airships." She noted. "Must be off to survey new lands in search of other species." She muttered to herself before sitting down next to her longtime partner. "I remember when I took on one of those airships." Ashe smiled. "You did not enjoy it." Aun just looked at her as the woman shrugged. "Looking back on it, I shouldn't have been surprised. Like me, you have no wings, flying is both a dream and a nightmare. Being so far away from the ground…" She paused before Aun hit her in the side. Ashe just fell silent as she looked at the sight a bit longer. "You know, we're going to have to teach them to hunt soon." Ashe muttered as Aun made a noise. "No creature can survive in this world without knowing how to hunt or protect themselves." Ashe continued. "I am not looking forward to that." She chuckled slightly. "Are you?" Aun just looked at her human counterpart, a look on her face that gave an honest answer.
No, not in the slightest.
Two Weeks Later
"Ah~" A six year old Gales looked at the sword roughly his size, one of the two weapons Ashe had chosen to start him off with. A simple sword and shield, as well as a short bow. "These are mine? Really?!" Ashe just nodded as she watched him swing the iron sword around trying to get a feel for it. A small shield tied to one of his arms and a quiver of arrows were on his waist. "Thank you!" He beamed as Ashe watched him continue playing with the sword and shield he'd been given. The moment he tried running off though she picked him off by the scruff of his neck and watched him flail about.
"Hold on young man. You can't just go running off and start using them"
"Eh? Why not?"
"Well you cant just go out and pick a fight with something, if you do they will kick your scrawny little ass into next month." Gales tilted his head as he heard the words. "Besides, I need to teach you how to use those before you hurt yourself." She admitted before setting the six year old down. "Among a few other things." She admitted crossing her arms again.
"By the Five where to start?" She muttered, raising a hand to her chin and frowned. Ashe muttered before seeming to drift off into space. "Should I start with the Five? The Ancients? Why we live this way?" She paused. My word there is just so much we need to cover." She looked down at her child. She watched as Gales started looking at the small arrows that Ashe had given him as she snorted. "Actually let's start with this; never put the pointy end towards your face."
1 year later
Ashe watched from the sidelines. Standing next to their home as she watched Gales string an arrow as he pointed it off into the distance. His attention focusing on the grass doll she had set up for him. She watched him frown as he breathed, steadied his aim and let the arrow fly.
It didn't hit its mark. In fact it was so far off its mark that she wasn't sure he was even aiming at the target to begin with. He tried again, this time getting a bit closer in his aim, and then the third one went flying elsewhere again. Half a quiver later he gave up, just walking up to the target and stabbed it with the arrow before huffing and wandering off. Aun looked at her, letting little Garm wander off after the child. "Give him time." Ashe stated, watching them go. "The art of the bow isn't easy to master." She mused. "And he's still young, it'll take time to get him used to using a bow." Aun made a noise as Ashe shook her head. "No, I'm not letting him use a bowgun. To start the recoil would knock him unconscious." She stated looking at her partner. "Although it would be good to get the pups used to loud noises." Aun gave her a look. "Hey you brought it up." Ashe watched as Oym got to his feet, looking to where the last of his pups had been before following after them. "Anyway Gales will need some time to calm down, and I think Oum will help with that." She looked to the rest of the Aun's pups who were either napping, scratching themselves, or wrestling. "In the meantime, what do you say we get these five hunting lessons?" The bark Aun released, snapped her children at attention as they looked at her. "I'll take that as a yes." Ashe stated as she walked over to her glaive and picked it up.
"Stupid bow." The seven year old muttered as he wandered across the hills, not really bothering to pay attention to the where he was going as Garm followed after him. "Why do I have to learn to use a bow anyway? They're stupid, and flimsy and stupid." He put the bow back on his back as he kicked a stone. "Swords are a lot easier to use." Garm just made a noise as he nudged his partner's leg to get his attention. Gales looked to him, slowly smiling before patting Gram's head. "Sorry, I know you don't like it when I get mad, but I can't help it." He muttered. "I keep screwing up with the bow so." He muttered to himself as Gram made a noise. "Why does Ashe even want me to use this thing anyway?" Gram made a noise, not really knowing the answer himself before running off and started smelling the dirt. "Gram?" The pup started digging at the ground, seemingly searching for something, that something turned out to be a piece of buried meat. "Someones hungry. Gales snickered as Gram just started eating. That snicker died down as his own stomach started to growl. "Oh, guess I'm hungry too." Gales muttered as he looked at the meat that Gram was eating. "Hm~ nah?" Looking around, Gales just started searching for something to possibly eat himself. He started by pulling at some wild herbs, as well as a few berries still growing on bushes.
Shortly after that he started looking into grubs.
Ashe always said never be picky about where food came from. Just make sure it doesn't smell weird, cause otherwise it's either rotten or poisoned. Speaking of which Ashe hadn't started his poison tolerance training yet. "She said we'd do it later, but it is "later". So why can't I just start that training anyway?" He muttered before tilting his head. "How… how do you even start that anyway?" He stared off in thought as he looked over to where Gram was. "And who buries food?"
Ashe said that some tribes buried meat to cook it that way. How that was possible he had no idea. She also said that some animals did to… preserve for…
"Oh no." A growl ran through the clearing as Gram looked up and Gales slowly turned his head. Both their attention turning to see a pack of larger creatures staring them down. A pack of velociprey no alpha though. "Gales took a step back carefully grabbing onto Gram as he lifted the pup up. "Was that meat yours?"
No, it wasn't. Bird wyverns didn't bury their food, something else did. Still as Ashe put it though, Velociprey were very opportunistic… and a lonely pup and a seven year old was something they wouldn't really pass."
Gales wasn't sure who moved first, them or him. All he knew was that he bolted. Gram trappd in his hands as he started barking at the pack while they gave chase.
For a seven year old Gales wasn't overly fast, but, thank the Five Ashe never let him skip leg day. That boy ran like the Devil himself was after him.
From a bush Gales saw Oum appear, leaping above him and tackling the leader of the pack to the ground. The rest of the pack stopped circling the older wulg as he stood his ground. Gales didn't stay to see how things played out, he just kept running, and Gram kept barking. In the distance he heard Oum release a piercing howl that scattered the birds in the immediate area.
A challenge issued.
What followed was the shrill of the hunting pack's leader.
A challenge answered.
Gales wouldn't see the clash that followed, running as far as he could from the soon to be battleground. He kept running, running until his feet stumbled over something and he fell.
His fell became a roll, falling into the crevice in the world and fell further into the Earth. All the while he kept a hold onto little Gram, trying to shield him from hard stone that gave way to wet rock and eventually water. In a lake beneath the world, a seven year old Gales gasped for air, and groaned. "Ow~" Gram shook himself trying to dislodge water from his fur before he looked at his counterpart. "You ok?" Gram responded with a lick as Gales pulled themselves to the shallow edge of the underground lake, he coughed and got to his feet. He looked around for a moment finding the lake gave way to an old cave network. "Oum!" He called out, and Gram barked. "Oum, find Ashe!" Nothing. "Oum!" Another bark from Gram. He stared at the crack in the ceiling, finding the light cast from the sun. "He can't hear us." Gales muttered as he looked to the walls and ran up to them. " To smooth." He muttered as he swept his hand over the stone. "Can't climb up from here." He admitted before looking towards the inner depths of the cave than to Gram. "Guess we gotta find another way out." He muttered as Gram started walking towards a gaping mouth of stone. "Well, exploring is always fun anyway." He found two paths to go down. One descending into an unbroken darkness, and another that allows light to come through from cracks of above. "No way am I going down a path I can't see." He muttered before looking to Gram. "So lets go the other way." Gram just yelped in agreement as they moved into part of the world that may of been better left forgotten.
What they found down here was something they'd never tell their respective parents about.
Aberrant Hair Follicles
Physical Traits: Abnormal Hair Colors
Effects: Hands down this is a very strange mutation. likely caused by a unusual type of pigment that allows hair to change color on fairly rare occasions. Its "possible" that the change is similar to a chameleon's ability to alter its color; meaning the color changes when the carrier is either excited or relaxed. It might also be a genetic throwback form intimidation against other predators or a way to stand out and attract potential mates. Of course all this is mere speculation, as no other cases have presently been observed.