The Phantom Inker

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The Second Incident

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Xandra had travelled this road a hundred times. The high road from Cordelia to Innsbruck, over Kerdin's Pass, down thorough the Black Valley, and beyond the Forest of Essel, was not the route most of the King's Messengers took, but it was the shortest and fastest route if you had a horse that could handle it. And Xandra's horse Polla had been over this road just as many times as she had. But this time, walking the narrow, winding path through the Black Valley, Polla paused and pulled back.

"What's the matter, girl?" said Xandra, looking down at her steed, but the horse didn't look back at her.

Instead, there was a low rumble. "Earthquake!" cried Xandra, and kicked Polla's sides with her spurs.

The two bolted. Beside them, a sharp blue spike shot from the ground, and as they ran, another burst forth, and another.

"It's a crystal eruption!" cried Xandra. "Run faster, Polla!"

The horse needed no extra urging, and for a moment it seemed as if they'd outrun the great crystals bursting out of the dark earth behind them. But the crystals nudged closer, and closer, and then they were surrounded.

A brilliant yellow light engulfed them, and Xandra cried out in dismay as the eruption of fusion crystals worked their magic on every creature that dared walk this lonely trail. Xandra felt as if her veins were on fire, and her body felt as though it was being torn limb from limb — but then the pain subsided, and so did the light. The fused creature landed on her hooves, and stared at what she'd become as memories she didn't recognize flooded her mind.

In time, Xandra would learn of others who had been fused like this, and in time, she would be the fleetest messenger of the new Kingdom of Centaurs, and in time, she would marry the only boy who would ever dare try to outrun her. But this was none of those times: Here in the future Crystal Valley, where Xandra found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, the only thing the messenger knew for certain was that the high road from Cordelia to Innsbruck would never be the same.

So... hey, some storytelling to go with a transformation picture. Which is a sequel to a previous drawing, set a few months in the future in a kingdom to the west of where that previous fusion happened.

My wife saw the braid in Xandra's hair and insisted that she should have black hair and darker skin, more Native-American-styled, even if she lives in a parallel D&D universe.

As usual, this is all CorelDRAW with a mouse, maybe 30 hours of work that I started about 12 days ago.

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