Belkar is the first to wake up that morning. He sits straight up in his bedroll, opens his eyes, and closes them again. Then he puts his hands to his head and screams. The rest of the party tumble awake, in various states of confusion and dishevellment.
‘Whazzit? I’m up!’ Roy scrambles to his feet and casts around blindly. ‘Wheresword? Hey!’. He takes a step forward. Something feels odd, but he can’t quite work out what it is yet. ‘Who’s got my sword?’
Haley’s eyes flick open, and she stretches her feet down to the ground in one easy, cat-like movement. ‘I’m awake. Elan, what are you yelling about? And who’s that screaming…’ her voice trails away into nothingness as she looks around her. ‘What the… the world, it's all… Guys, guys, what’s happened?’
Elan jumps to his feet. ‘Haley? Who’s screaming?’ He stumbles. ‘Oof, Is it me, or is the ground a lot closer than it was yesterday?’
‘Sword. Sword! Guys, this isn’t funny, I can’t find my –’
‘In the name of all the infernal spirits, would someone care to inform me as to what sort of ridiculous foolishness has prompted this new chapter of idiocy come to discombobulate us all?!’
Durkon is swaying in place, looking vaguely vertiginous. ‘Thor preserve us! This mus’ be some kinda evil trickery o’the Linear Guild, or…’ He trails off. On the other side of the clearing, the lass is still sitting up in her bedroll and screaming, so he walks around the embers of last night’s fire to comfort her.
‘Dinnae fret, Haley, love. Whatever’s goin’ on, we’ll get to the bottom of it, an –’ He is stunned as she reaches out to slap his hand away from her shoulder.
‘I’m not Haley, you stupid beard-faced moron!’ his team-mate snarls through beautiful cream-skinned features, the accent and tone of her voice completely altered. ‘It’s me, jerkass!’.
This time, three or four people all start screaming at once as the reality of what has happened sets in. The person who now looks like Belkar is the first to recover, walking across the clearing with a measured glide that seems totally out-of-place on the halfling’s body. ‘Master Thundershield. I believe that I have arrived at a hypothesis as to our situation. I fear that we may have been the victims of some sort of appalling homebrewed polymorph spell.’
‘You mean - ?’ Roy, who has now been re-united with his sword, clutches it tightly and then pushes back the sheaf of thick blond hair that’s unexpectedly tumbled into his eyes with a twitch of horror.
‘I am afraid so. We have been… body-swapped.’
‘Righ’, righ’,’ Durkon fights down a rising tide of panic. He looks distractedly down at the hand he that he has just been using to try to comfort the person that he thought was Haley, and registers the size and the warm brown of the skin. ‘So I’m guessin’ I’ve been turned intae Roy then.’
With a small shrug of defeat, Roy lowers his sword, which is now a little too heavy for him to hold en garde. ‘And I’m Elan. Great. ’
V nods hir small, cropped-ginger head. ‘It appears you are correct. From the relative position of the ground to my eye level, as well as the fact that I appear to be clean-shaven and am not wearing armour, I would surmise that I am currently occupying the halfling’s body.’ Ze gives a small, involuntary shudder.
‘Yeah, and you’d better take good care of it, Ears, or I’ll – ’ A truly horrible smile spreads across Haley’s features. ‘And what do you know? I’m Haley, aren’t I? ’ He jumps to his feet. ‘Right, if you boys will excuse me, I’m just off to –’
The person who looks like Durkon lurches across the clearing on legs that are suddenly far too shortfor him. ‘Belkar! Don’t you even think about doing anything horrible to Haley’s body, or I’ll, I’ll – ’
Vaarsuvius is faster. With new reflexes, ze whips one of Belkar’s daggers from his belt, and buries the point an inch deep into hir new body’s left hand without flinching. Ze holds it up, dripping, to get the halfling’s attention. ‘Belkar. From now until the moment we achieve the undoing of this spell, you will remain within my direct line of sight at all times. If you fail to do this, or if any of us have any other reason to suspect you of any other untoward activity towards Miss Starshine’s body, I shall use this dagger to cut off one finger for every minute for which you are unaccountable. If you are absent for a sufficient amount of time that I should run out of fingers, I shall move on to…’ the elf’s gaze travels downwards ‘… other body parts’.
‘And ye needn’t think I’ll be healin’ ye, neither!’ Durkon’s glare, it turns out, is a lot more intimidating when it’s coming from a height of six foot six inches.
‘Thanks, V!’ Durkon’s face breaks into Elan’s disarmingly sunny grin. Then he looks around him. ‘Hey, hang on a minute. If I’m – ’ his hand travels up to his face and pats the beard, just to make sure – ‘if I’m Durkon, and Durkon’s Roy, and Belkar’s Haley, and V, you’re Belkar, and, and, I’m confused…’
‘I’m you,’ Roy puts in helpfully.
‘Right, and Roy’s me… where’s Haley?’
They all turn at the same time. On far side of the clearing, a deeply disturbing sight meets their eyes. Sitting in a small patch of clover, pink eyes unfocused and vacant, giggling mindlessly and trying to pet a butterfly that’s landed on one outstretched hand, is the body of the ancient arcane mage Vaarsuvius.
To be continued…