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A note from Nettles

These are very, very rough, but it's nano and I don't have time to edit them into how I want them to be, so for now I'm going to post them and move on.

She had been at the school for almost two weeks now, and it hadn’t been what she’d hoped for.

For a start, the teachers were mean. She had gotten off the Dragon full of excitement and joy, and had then instantly been shot down.

The first thing they had done was confirm her name and that she was who she said she was, and then they ordered her to "drop that hideous affectation".

She had queried that, confused, and the teacher had clarified. She was not to Change, not herself, or others, or even inanimate objects, outside of class. She was to wear her "natural" form at all times.

Secondly, they expected her to attend every single class, even the ones she didn’t care about like maths and chemistry and history of the poetic noun.

At least she thought that that was the name of the final class, it might not be. She had still been reeling over point one.

Why would she need to know poetry and history? She wanted to learn how to paint and draw and do magic, and that would be more than enough for her to support herself. Everything else was secondary.

She had refused, of course, on the magic-front, but they had threatened to not let her in if she refused, to leave her to die on the streets.

If she could have turned around and gone home there and then, she would have. A part of her considered that maybe the streets would be a better option, but she was hundreds of miles away from home, with no friends and no family. Where would she have gone… She didn't want to die.

She had argued, but the teacher stood firm. A beautiful woman with grey hair cropped so short that she almost looked bald from a distance, and a sharp, masculine face. She had stood there in the landing area, her back straight and her gaze hard as she looked down on Twigseethe.

So, she had let them Shift her back into her “natural” form. Taller, stockier, and a boy. She hated it, hated it hated it hated it, it wasn’t her.

She had held it for a heartbeat, glaring at the teacher the whole time, and then Changed back into the form she had made for herself whilst on Dragons back. She couldn’t do it, she couldn’t live like that, had never lived like that. She had Changed herself the moment she was old enough to understand what was wrong, and had never gone back.

Would never go back.

It was a vivid memory, that first class in school, when the magic teacher came in and asked them what they wanted out of their lives, if they were happy with themselves. He hadn’t let them become less fat or taller, but he had let them change their bodies in silly ways, and when he had said she wanted to be a she, that was easy.

And she wouldn’t go back. Not ever.

The teacher had threatened her more, during the short walk to the school. Threatened to abandon her to the streets, to write to her parents, to her old teachers, and finally to lock her magic away if she didn’t abide by their rules.

She didn’t think they could actually do that. Magic was life, and to lock her out of it without killing her would be to keep a fish alive outside of water, but the threats had worked. She hadn’t wanted to be thrown onto the streets, hadn’t wanted to risk losing the magic that was the air she breathed.

So here she was. A thousand miles from home in a school that she hated, surrounded by people who didn’t want her there, in a body that wasn't hers.

She had put up with it for almost a week, and it was late afternoon, the sun was warm against her face and hair as she gazed out over the city. Classes were over for the day, and she was perched on the highest roof she could reach. The students weren’t allowed to leave the school grounds, but nobody seemed to mind where she went, as long as she kept out of the teachers areas on the upper floors.

It was strange, this body. She took a moment to stare down at her unfamiliar hands. She had probably been four or five years old when she had last worn it, and under the shroud of Change it had aged alongside her like a lost sibling.

She wouldn’t have minded having a brother, but she resented having to wear their body. With a surreptitious look around, she let just the tiniest bit of magic wash over her, changing some of the more onerous physical features. They would notice, they seemed able to see Change in people in a way she could not, but for now…

It was still miserable, but it was a little better.


It lasted all of 5 minutes before her teachers spotted it and demanded she change back with a raised ruler and harsh tones. The other kids in the class looked away, all going through the same thing, but more willing to bow to authority. She had learnt a few of their names, but hadn’t really had any chance to speak to them, too wrapped up in her own troubles.

She had done it, but now, sitting in the corner of the classroom, humiliated and shunned, she decided she would rather die than live like this any longer.

The teacher had been writing something on the board, but she couldn’t hear it through the roaring in her ears, couldn't see it through the tears streaming down her unfamiliar face.

With a breath she let the magic roll through her, shifting her back into the form she had designed whilst in the air. The smaller body, the pocket-filled bones and the hair like fire.

She added small feathers over her arms while she was at it, purely cosmetic, a deep green and tight against her skin. She also added a ridge of longer feathers, to flow out behind her arms like sleeves. As she used one arm to wipe her eyes, the small feathers tickled her nose, and it made her feel a little better.

Everyone in the class was looking at her now, and the teacher was heading towards her, their face angry, but she didn’t care anymore. Let them kick her out. She would survive.


She was marched off to the headteachers office, one hand heavy on her shoulder, as if she might fly away if they let her go. She could feel the teacher pushing Shift into her, trying to change her back to her "natural" form, but she pushed it away easily. They weren’t very good at it, if she was being honest.

The meeting in with the headteacher lasted a good two and a half hours, the woman who ran the school trying to convince her of their reasoning. It was the same woman who had picked her up from the post office, and she was a little surprised that she'd had the time.

The two of them ganged up on her. They said that she had to “know her own body” before she could “inhabit somebody elses”, that it would be "good for her".

They were wrong, the both of them. She knew her own body, and it was what she was wearing right now.

They tried to browbeat her, with “That may be how you do things back in whatever backwater you’ve come from, but here we do things differently!”

She would come to hear that phrase a lot, and it would only serve the firm her resolve. Maybe her home had been a backwater, but the water had been clean and clear, and the people there had treated her with kindness.

They tried to convince her that the changes she had made to her bones would harm her in the long-run, but she knew that wasn’t the case. If she got into a fight, sure, the blood loss would be harder to recover from, yes, but she could always Shift back if that was the case. “But what if you’re unconscious” well then somebody could Shift her back without resistance, or she would simply recover slower.

Two and a half hours.

In the end she agreed to reverse the hair and the feathers and the bone density, but she kept her body as it otherwise was. They tried to humiliate her, forcing her to explain to each teacher in the school one by one why she was doing this, but she was done cowering. They wouldn’t break her, not like this.

She was justified in what she wanted, and if they were going to make her explain it to the whole world, then fine. She would tell the gods themselves, if that was what they wanted.

They didn’t insist on that, of course, you didn’t bother the Gods with such petty matters.

She had gone back to class with her head held high, her body not right, but closer to what she needed. The other students in the class had looked away, refused to meet her eyes. She knew that given the chance, they would do the same themselves, but they were cowards.


For the first few days in the school she tried to make friends, but eventually she realised it wasn’t going to happen. Coming in via dragon was faster than arriving via coach and horses or boat, but he worked on a set schedule, and she was almost 2 weeks late. By that point the others in her year had already started to learn their way around and form friendship groups, and she was on the back-foot from the start. She was the one who complained and rocked the boat and didn’t know the class schedule, and nobody wanted to deal with that.

The other kids had also had two weeks to adjust to their “normal” bodies, and none of them were as upset about it as she was. They had just accepted it as a fact of life, and couldn’t understand her anger.

Despite that, she had started to make friends with a girl in her dorm. She had bright yellow hair and beautiful blue eyes, and she was named Lemonleaf. She was also a late arrival, and they had bonded over their shared confusion. The two of them had sat together at lunch and chatted somewhat casually. They had talked about classes and how mean the teachers were and bonded over a love of magic.

Then, after almost a week of this, Lemonleaf had taken her lunch to another table, sitting with a group of girls Twigseethe didn’t know. When she tried to take a seat next to her, the group closed ranks, shifting to fill the benches and staring at her with judgemental eyes. Lemonleaf refused to make eye contact with her, shrinking into her seat and stoically staring into her food.

That night she hadn’t returned to the dorm, her bed stripped bare, and Twigseethe discovered some days later that she had requested a room change.

She had stopped her in a corridor and tried to ask what had changed, but the new friends had closed in around her protectively, shouting jeering and mocking insults until she had backed off in tears.

The few people who would speak to her before that seemed to avoid her afterwards, no longer meeting her eyes, and she was left alone in her misery.

She cried outside in gardens, where she wouldn’t be overheard. The dorm was too open, and she was too vulnerable. She shared it with five other girls, and although they didn't bother her much, just their presence there made her feel open and vulnerable.

She would lie there awake with her eyes wide open, forcing herself not to blink until they burnt and her every muscle ached. The windows were large and glass, one above each bed, uncurtained and cracked open at the top, the school believed in keeping the bedrooms cold. On some nights she would lie there and watch the moon move across the sky, from one window to another, until it completed it’s cycle.

After a few weeks of this she had had enough. She would wait until everyone was asleep, and the last check had been done by the monitor, around 11pm, and then she would wrap herself in a blanket like a cloak and explore the cold, empty school until three or four am.

They weren’t expected to be awake until 8am, so she would have a few hours sleep when she returned, exhaustion overwhelming her misery and anxiety.

She missed her home. She missed her own bedroom filled with her own books and toys. She missed her mum and her dad. The public school she had attended seemed bad at the time, but she even missed that. The other kids hadn’t liked her much, but they had never been hostile, just distant, and the teachers had praised her talent. The students had been encouraged to practice on each other, to get to know different body types and to learn what would make them happy.

It had been in that first class that she had learnt that, despite her body being that of a boy, she wasn’t. She had come home later that night and told her mother, and it had been accepted from then on. It wasn’t unusual, many people were born in the wrong bodies, and a Changer could easily fix it. The stubbornness refusal to accept it over here confused and upset her.

Sure, it was more difficult to fix the insides, so if you wanted babies then you would have to take a special expensive potion to invoke permanent changes, but Change was good enough for most, and good enough for her.

So ended her first few weeks at the new school.

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Nettles

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