They were now over the lake. In the early morning there was not so much as a ripple on the water, so Daecon could see their reflections as they glided over. He dove down to get a closer look at his own reflection. He wanted to know what he looked like as a bird. Only about twenty feet off the water, he could see quite clearly now that he was a large, pure white bird with a sharp hooked black beak and black talons. He looked to be some kind of eagle, similar in shape to but much larger than Owen. He tilted his head and could see his large blue eye in the reflection, the red being visible as well. He couldn’t help but feel that he looked majestic.
“Not too bad, eh?” said Leander, who was now flying beside him. “I knew that your bird form would be magnificent, just going by what your wings and tail looked like. I must say I’m surprised to see that you’re pure white, but I suppose we don’t always carry our human form colours into our animal forms, do we?
“What do you mean?”, Daecon asked.
“Well, I was expecting you to have some streaks of blue in your body plumage, to match your hair.”
“Oh, that? That’s simple enough to explain. I dye my hair.
It’s easier than answering questions.”
“You dye it? So what colour is it naturally?”
“White, just as white as I am now. Every hair on my body is
white. Eyebrows, eye lashes, chest hair, arm and leg hair, even my pubic hair,
all pure white. My family – the orphanage – thought that I might be albino
because of it and the red in my eyes, but they said my skin is too dark to be
albino, and I don’t sunburn at all like an albino would. Anyway, the other kids
made fun of it, so as soon as I was old enough I started dying my hair and
wearing those contacts.”
“I see”, Leander said. “Very interesting.”
“What's so interesting about that?” Daecon asked.
“WE’RE HERE”, Owen announced loudly as he appeared between them.
Sure enough, they were fast approaching the cottage. They all started back-flapping to slow their approach, and soon they were all standing on the shore of the lake, Daecon having just completed his second textbook landing, and his first one as a true bird. Owen and Leander both changed into human form and looked expectantly at Daecon.
“Do I really have to change?” He said.
“No, you don’t have to, but you will find it easier to navigate and live in a house built for the human form if you take human form”, Owen said.
“Fine”, Daecon sulked, and with a flash of light he was back
in human form.
Owen was giving him an odd look now. “Your hair, it’s...”
“White, yes”, Leander said. “Daecon and I were just having
Daecon reached up and grabbed a handful of his long hair and
held it out so that he could see it.
“Wait, what happened to my dye?”
“It must have washed off”, said Owen.
“But how? I haven’t been wet since yesterday, and the dye was
there when we left that cave this morning. Wait, do you think that maybe my
shifting did something to it?”
“No, I don’t think...” Leander had begun.
“Yes, that’s probably exactly what happened”, said Owen while
glaring at Leander. "Your white feathers reverted to white hair. Now come on,
let’s get inside. Evander will be waiting for us.”
Owen and Leander started toward the cabin. Daecon was looking at Owen’s back, feeling resentful. He couldn’t help but feel that Owen was hiding something from him. It seemed as though every time Leander tried to explain one of his many oddities (even among shape shifters, it seemed as though he was odd) Owen would interrupt and prevent him from doing so.
Daecon followed them into the cottage meaning to confront Owen about the secrecy, but any thoughts of confrontation were driven out of his mind by what he saw inside. He had grown up poor, of course, but his cryptocurrency earnings had been allowing him to live a luxurious lifestyle since he left high school. He lived in the penthouse suite of a very prestigious and modern condominium complex, and every imaginable luxury was at his fingertips. His condo featured all the absolute best appliances and entertainment that money could buy.
He didn’t really know what to expect inside this rustic cabin
on the shore of this lake out in the middle of nowhere, but it certainly wasn’t
this: Although relatively small, the cabin was bright and airy inside, an open
concept arrangement with the kitchen, dining, and living areas all in one large
room, with a bathroom at the far end. A faint smoky smell came to Daecon’s nose
as he looked around, wide-eyed. The living area was finished with natural wood
walls, large wooden beams holding up the ceiling and bedrooms above, and a huge
stone fireplace dominating one wall. Another wall was dedicated to books –
hundreds and hundreds of books stacked on wooden shelves built into the wall.
In between those two walls was a beautiful antique furniture set that looked
like it was hundreds of years old, yet also looked very comfortable and
inviting. If it hadn’t been for the large flat screen television attached to
the stone hearth above the fireplace and below an enormous set of moose antlers
anyone might have thought they had stepped back in time 200 years.
The kitchen was similarly a mixture of rustic and modern,
with ancient wooden cabinets topped by real granite counter tops and a large
porcelain sink with separate hot and cold water taps, but complimented by
modern stainless steel gas appliances including a large double-door fridge that
was larger even than the one he had in his condo. As he looked around he
noticed that nearly every space, on the walls, on the shelves, on the kitchen
counters, even the moose antlers, was occupied by various knickknacks,
paintings, sculptures, and photographs, most relating to nature and the
outdoors. The entire wall of the end of the cabin that they had just walked
into was glass windows looking out over the lake that they had just flown in
He was in love. He had always felt the longing to live in
nature but had never gotten around to it, instead choosing the city life with
its noise, action, and parties. Now that he was experiencing it first hand, no
other house, apartment, or condo he had ever been in had felt more like a
“home” than this one.
Leander was watching him sheepishly as he looked around. “I’m
sorry if the place isn’t up to the standards you’re undoubtedly used to living
among humans, but it’s the best we can do out here this far off the grid, I’m
Daecon looked at him and said “Are you kidding me? This place
is freaking beautiful! I love it! The decorations! The wood! The lake! It all
just seems so... warm”.
Leander smiled. “Thank you”, he said. “It’s really just our
cottage, but we try to spend as much time here as we can. We’ve also got a
small house within the colony that we use when we have business to attend to in
person. You’ll see it soon enough, though I must warn that it is a little
more... sterile than this place.”
“Colony?”, Daecon asked. “Business?”
“Ahh, yes. We have a large colony of shifters a few hours
flight time away from here, near the human city. There are roughly 40,000 of us
“What? How do you manage keeping a colony of that size without humans knowing about you?”
“The colony is on sacred land, protected by an ancient
cloaking spell from unwanted human detection and interference. To humans it
appears as a large, uninhabitable and inaccessible swamp. And this is only one
of our colonies. There are other colonies – villages, if you will, with
thousands of shifters living in them, kept secret from humans in much the same
ways the main colony is.”
“I see”, said Daecon. “So what business do you do at this
“Well, as I’ve told you earlier, we are both healers. Owen specializes in the biological aspect of healing, I focus more on the psychological and magical end of things. We mainly do research though, we aren’t usually hands-on, which is why we spend most of our time here where we can work remotely.”
“Cool, cool...”, Daecon said absentmindedly as he watched Owen walk over to the base of a set of stairs.
“Evander!” Owen called up those stairs. “Come on downstairs, son, we have somebody for you to meet!”
“So”, Daecon said as he turned his attention back to Leander. “When am I going to see this colony?”
“Oh! As soon as possible, I should think. We will probably head there as soon as...”
“As soon as we are sure it’s safe for him to do so”, Owen interrupted.
“Safe?” Daecon asked. “Why wouldn’t it be safe??”
Owen thought about it for a moment, considering his answer
carefully. “Remember yesterday, when we first met, and I told you that your
situation is unique, that there was something very off about the circumstances
around your birth and upbringing”?
“Yes. You called me ‘unauthorized’, whatever that means.”
“Right. Well, I have been thinking, and I have decided that
it would be a bad idea for us to bring you to the colony and parade you around.
I want to check into some things first to make sure there won’t be trouble.”
“Yes, trouble. An unauthorized birth is new territory for me.
I’m not even sure of the laws that would apply here. Before we announce you, I
want to make sure that it’s OK to announce you.”
“Oh, come on”, Leander said. “What trouble could he have? As
soon as they see...”
“Evander!” Owen said, almost too loudly, as their son
appeared descending the stairway. “Come over here, please, I’d like you to meet
Once again Daecon felt as though Owen had just prevented
Leander from telling him something important. All this was forgotten as he
turned to look at Evander, and for the second time since walking into the cabin
he fell love.