Rain opened his eyes and immediately panicked.
He was underwater, deep underwater, and in the process of drowning, his lungs were flooded with water.
On instinct he shoved his legs beneath him and heaved upward with as much strength as he could muster. He shot off the sandy lake bed and rocketed up like a cork.
The rippling surface light drew closer until with a rush of cold air he broke the surface. He immediately convulsed and a fountain of water exploded out of his mouth. He gasped wretchedly, barely getting air. He bobbed below the surface before thrashing at the water to bring his head above the surface again. Shore. Land. He needed land if he had a hope in hell of clearing his lungs. Burning for breath he spied land and struck out for it. He swam with desperation. More than once he tried to breathe, only managing half gasps that barely kept him going. As he neared the shore he could feel himself losing consciousness, nevertheless he dragged himself onward with pure adrenaline. Sand. Stone. Ground. He crawled from the water like a drunkard and collapsed. Half a second later he vomited water and then continued to vomit water. With shaky arms he lifted himself and water poured from his throat, from his lungs, his stomach. By the time he was done his insides burned from clenching and squeezing. But he could breathe, that was what mattered.
He flopped on his back and took great heaving breaths.
He was alive.
“Why am I alive?” he croaked.
His voice did not sound normal. He opened his eyes blearily and realised there was something partially blocking his vision. He moved an arm upward to move it away and somehow bashed himself in the nose.
Confused he lifted his hands up to feel at his face, except what appeared in front of his eyes was not his hands but some kind of large furred paw like things with black claws. He yelled and flinched away afraid of a hidden monster.
When nothing attacked him he paused and looked around. He was alone on the lakeshore. No monsters, not even the group he came with. The memory of what they had done to him hit him like a sledge hammer and he had to rush to suppress the memory, box it away, even so he felt himself nearly lose it.
He shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.
Step one, what was the thing blocking part of his vision. He brought one hand up this time and, well, it took only a second of seeing it move to realise that he was in fact looking at his own hand, but become monstrous. No longer a Human’s hand but a cruel looking paw, broad digits with paw pads, claws, even a thumb digit with its own pad and claw. He curled his paw experimentally. A quiet voice was screaming in the back of his head but he felt like he had gone somewhat past the limits of what a human was capable of coping with due to recent events. He brought his hand, paw, up to his face and gently padded at it. The thing partially blocking his view was his new snout, muzzle, nose. Not good. Alarm levels were spiking as his paws wandered downward where a mouth full of razor sharp teeth became known. An animal’s mouth. A wolf’s mouth.
He sat up and looked down at his body. His legs were no longer the nice and normal plantigrade human legs but a double kneed kind of digitrade wolf leg, worse it was all covered in wet black fur! In fact all of him was! He held up his arms in horror realizing he was entirely covered in the stuff.
Breathing hard and verging on a panic attack he crawled to the lake’s edge and peered at the water. It took a moment to still the ripples but as he did he saw not a human face reflected back at him but that of a threatening looking black wolf with yellow eyes.
He slumped backward and scuttled away from the water’s edge
He tried to clutch at his head but the feeling off his paws just brought the fact he was a monster home.
“Oh gods oh gods oh gods what is happening to me!?”
He chose to close his eyes again to gather some sense of control.
“Breathe, just breath Rain, just fucking breathe. Inhale, count to six. Exhale, count to six. Inhale, count to six. Exhale, count to six.”
He remained like that until the sheer animal panic that was attempting to rise up in him had passed.
At last, after what must have been nearly twenty minutes of calming himself and fighting down trembling gut wrenching panic he felt well enough to open his eyes.
He was still a monster.
But this time he didn’t immediately freak out.
“L-last thing I remember was hearing that voice on the lake bed. Gods, what was it, something about a prince and inheritance. It made no sense, it might as well have been a nonsense dream if it weren’t for this monstrous body.”
Blowing air out of his nose he decided he felt collected enough to stand. This was easier said than done with his new legs and it took more than a few tries. After he fell for the third time he figured out that thinking of it as standing on tip toes would be the equivalent anatomically as a human’s heel would be the second ‘knee’ of a wolf or a dog.
At last he was upright, wobbly but definitely upright. He looked down and tried to get a measure of himself.
“Well... I’m still short, but... at least I’m a little less short?”
He wasn’t certain by exactly how much but he was sure he was a little more above the ground than his past self.
He looked over his body and found a black wolf tail hanging from his backside, currently soaked and hanging limp. With a discomfited feeling he tried to shake it and to his surprise it responded.
He suddenly had a thought and snapped his head around to inspect his groin area. He panicked thinking there was nothing there, but after a moment he realised what he was looking at was something like a wolf might have, a black furred sheath. He wasn’t willing to explore further but he was glad he apparently had something down there. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the details.
As he acclimatised himself to simply standing his stomach growled, painfully so.
“Fuck, if this is all new then I’ve basically never eaten.”
He looked around hopelessly. The shore stretched in either direction with no sign of anything foodlike.
“Well I can’t do nothing or I’ll starve, so I guess I’d best look for something.”
He picked a direction and began walking, or at least a wobbly drunkards version of walking that half the time had him stepping backward to regain his balance.
He made his way along the shore leaving wolf pad wet footprints in his wake.