Danny had agreed to look for the missing grain and grain silos. He cared, both about Amity as a whole and about specific people in it. Appearance aside, he wasn't a heartless monster. He wanted to help with a desperation that may have either been a symptom of being stuck for so long.
Unfortunately, he wasn't sure how.
Beyond the fact that the silos were gone, replaced by trees, Sam and Tucker didn't have any more information. They also stressed that they didn't expect him to go out and try to get the grain back or fight giant grain monsters. Sam just wanted him to keep an eye out and tell them if he saw anything..
But Danny itched to do more. He wasn't satisfied by just sitting around and watching, even if, realistically, that was all he could do.
Well. The watching part. Not the sitting around part.
He'd explored his immediate area, the space around his cozy ruin, fairly well. It wouldn't hurt to go further afield.
It probably wouldn't hurt to go further afield. He hadn't thought it would hurt to help Tucker impress Sam, either. It had. But Danny could do things now that he couldn't before, and he could always run and hide.
He made a small note and set it down on the little table in his little house, so that if Sam or Tucker came to visit while he was away, they would know. Then he left. There wasn't exactly anything stopping him from going whenever and wherever he pleased, after all. No family to worry, no responsibilities to keep up with, no provisions to gather, no borders keeping him in, other than the edges of the woods themselves.
He leapt up into the trees, and trotted along the branches as a forest cat, leaping easily from tree to tree whenever there was a gap. Shapeshifting came to him more and more easily as time went on (as long as he stayed in the trees, that is), and he'd tried out a lot of different forms, but, surprisingly, he liked being a cat. Maybe that was just because it was the first shape he'd ever shifted to, after being changed into… whatever he was now. But it had a lot going for it. Small, fast, good at hiding, good at climbing, good at jumping, decent natural weapons, sharp ears and eyes.
Magical places were unmappable, but they weren't unnavigable, and Danny was well aware when he left his explored bubble. His fur stood on end in anticipation at first, but with a conscious effort, he slicked it down. If something did attack him, he didn't need to be that fluffy.
He wasn't scared.
He climbed unfamiliar trees, skirted clearings and small ponds, and, in fits of whimsy or boredom, chased strange rodents. He did not get lost. The sense of where home was pressed gently against the back of his mind, in the same place his awareness of the trees and their help rested. He wondered if that sense of home was from the trees, too, or from something else, and he briefly jumped to the ground to test it.
At once, he felt his body change. Longer, a bit sharper, more triangular. He could see his pointed muzzle more easily, and while the pattern of his fur seemed to be the same, black with white points, it was sleeker.
He was a fox. He was fairly confident he was a fox. His tail seemed unnaturally long, however, and he wasted a few minutes twisting to look at it.
There was also something on his head, growing between his ears, something partially rigid and partially soft that brushed against his peripheral vision.
Danny did not like losing control of his shapeshifting. He hated being trapped in unfamiliar bodies at the whim of the Woods. Usually, he'd jump back up into the trees as soon as he could. But… He was also curious, darn it.
Padding around roots and through the underbrush, Danny backtracked to a pond he'd seen before and peered into his reflection.
He was a fox. There were also branches growing out of his head, no longer than his ears, antler-like and heavy with densely-clustered snowy flowers, leaves, and shiny little black and white fruit.
Huh. He wondered what those tasted like. He raised one paw and batted at the fruit. There was a tiny, pinching pain as one, black and gleaming, detached and rolled on the ground. He sniffed it.
He… probably wouldn't be poisoned by something his own body had produced, right? A person could even drink their own urine without much issue, if the circumstances demanded it…
Delicately, he picked up the berry with his lips, then crushed it against the roof of his mouth with his tongue. It was sweet, but otherwise had the same sort of metallic tang as blood. Weird.
… Was his blood in those?
A shriek split the air. Human. Terrified. Danny stiffened, ears rotating, trying to get a better idea of where the sound had come from.
He shivered, all his fur standing on end as he experienced what he could only describe as a tiny tug on his entire being. He took off, slipping through gaps in the trees easily, as if he knew this part of the Woods intimately, despite never having been here before.
Only moments later, he hit what looked like the beginnings of a campsite. A group of humans - a small merchant family, maybe, three adults and children - stood with their backs against a tree as wolves circled closer.
Danny called them wolves, because he didn't know what else to call them. They were too big, too dark, and their coats flickered green. He slid in between them and the humans, snarling and instinctively reaching for a shape like the ones in front of him–
There was a sensation not unlike something not unkindly slapping his mental hands away. No, said the thing in the back of his mind. That one has killed. Danny couldn't have it, couldn't be it. He shifted his focus to one of the others, and grew into the general shape, his antlers not disappearing, but going sharp and thorny. He felt brambles with thick, sharp thorns wend their way out of his flesh and wrap around his limbs like armor.
He snarled again, this time much deeper.
The wolves snarled back, but except for the first, the leader, they backed away. Danny and the wolf circled each other for a few minutes, sizing each other up, then they leapt at one another, biting and clawing.
The wolf was strong, and used to being itself. But Danny was strong, too, and the Woods let him cheat. The wolf stumbled away from him, whining and showing its throat.
Danny sniffed and jerked his head to one side. There should be a herd of deer in that direction, much better to eat than humans. The wolves were animals, not people, not intelligent in the way people were, but in the same way the Woods let him know things, it let him whisper things. The wolves left, tails between their legs.
Good. Good. Danny had never exactly done anything like this, but thank goodness no one was hurt. He turned to see if any of the travelers had been hurt and–
An iron pot hit his shoulder, making him stumble and yelp.
"Get– Get away! Get out of here, monster!"
A rain of other small objects that the humans had to hand pelted him, and he fled without further prompting, shrinking, shrinking, not knowing or caring what he was turning into until his paws became wings and carried him into the nearest tree. At once, he resumed human shape, and huddled in on himself.
He'd forgotten, which was ridiculous, because everything about him should have been a reminder.
… Sam and Tucker made it easy to forget.
(At least no one had gotten hurt. He could still hang on to that, couldn't he?)
He spent that night in the tree, but not the next. Crying and sulking in trees was not a good coping mechanism, and he had better things to do.