Evelyn took a deep breath of the sunset air. It was chill, bearing the promise of snowfall and the faint musky scent of a campfire about a mile or so upwind. She turned to her companions.
The first was a hooded figure, about five or so inches shorter than Evelyn. His right eye was covered with a leather patch, and one hand always seemed to hover possessively over the exotic blade at his belt.
The second was a rough-looking redhead, covered in various battle scars and the only other female in the group. She stood at ease and held her halberd with an easy familiarity that might lead one to think she was off her guard. They would of course be wrong, but that usually worked to her advantage.
The final companion was a lion-esque catfolk. His clothes were as flashy as his well-groomed mane, though his usual smile was currently replaced with a look of concern that nearly matched what Evelyn felt.
There was also the wolf that stood by Evelyn’s side, but she’d long since stopped thinking of Cobalt as an entirely separate entity from herself.
“Are you sure we’re far enough away?” She asked. The concern in her voice lacked the anxiety she felt, though she couldn’t keep it out of her hands as the fingers of one traced over the intricate carvings on her staff and the other twisted itself into Cobalt’s thick fur.
Sieg, the hooded companion, spoke first. “It’ll have to be. Moon’s supposed to rise in an hour.” Upon seeing the way Evelyn began to bite her lip, he added, “Relax, Sweetheart. If you do turn and break your bindings again, we all have our contingencies to stop you from going on a murderous rampage.”
“Yeah,” the redhead added, pulling out a set of manacles and starting with the task of chaining her friend to a nearby tree. “Not that you’re going to break them this time. I went and found some extra strong ones. Guaranteed not to break.”
“Thanks, Nia,” Evelyn smiled. Then she frowned. “Where’d you get the extra money to buy masterwork manacles, though?”
The redhead said nothing, but gestured with her head at Sieg, who was currently ignoring the girls in favour of surveying their current surroundings. The catfolk — Firebrand, as he preferred to be called — was discussing something with him just out of earshot.
“First time testing this,” Nia muttered.
Evelyn nodded. “I guess we’ll know soon if the practice pays off.” The chains on the manacles clinked against each other as the half-elf rubbed anxiously at a silver bracelet on her wrist. “Spirits, I don’t even know how it’s supposed to work.”
“Just remember what I keep telling you, Sweetheart.” Sieg approached and knelt down in front of Evelyn, wearing his usual semi-smug half-grin.
“Confidence is key,” she parroted at him, only barely managing to not roll her eyes.
“I still think some lessons with me would’ve helped,” Firebrand added. He was busy setting up a campfire about ten or so feet away, but that didn’t stop him from picking up the conversation clearly.
“I’m not going to learn self-confidence by strutting around and posing, I told you!” Just because Evelyn didn’t need to shout, didn’t mean she wouldn’t anyway. It helped with the stress at least.
“It’s more than just that. Give me a chance.”
Evelyn felt a twinge of guilt at the plea, but decided to ignore it for the time being. There were more important things to worry about currently: the full moon, and what came with it.
Nia gave a final tug on the chains to make sure they were secure before sighing in satisfaction and rocking back to sit cross-legged on the ground. Sieg followed suit and pulled a tiny flute from his pack, ignoring the glare the redhead sent his way.
The sun finished sinking, all reds and purples smeared across the sky before it settled into a deep and dark blue. The stars were already starting to appear, and the moon would rise any minute.
“Are you guys sure you want to sit this close?” The chains clinked as Evelyn shifted nervously. “If I do still-”
“You’re not going to turn. If that bracelet’s worth even half what we paid for it, you’ll keep being little Evelyn like you usually are.”
“You know,” Nia piped up, “it’s really funny to me how you keep calling her ‘little Evelyn’ when you literally have to tilt your head back to look her in the eyes.” She grinned around a stick of jerky.
“It’s a turn of phrase,” Sieg snapped. “She’s little compared to when she goes all wolfy.”
Cobalt, from beside the campfire, let out an amused huff, but otherwise ignored the group at large in favour of the remains of a badger he’d killed.
The moon began to creep over the mountains. A growing drop of silver in the dark sky. Evelyn felt her eyes drawn to it like it was magnetic. Hypnotic. She did not realized when her breaths came quicker and her shoulders shook. Swallowing a deep breath, she closed her eyes and willed herself not to change. She wanted to stay as she was. She wanted to stay herself.
In the back of her mind, she counted the seconds. One… two… three…. She was holding her breath. Her lungs wanted to burst. Four… five… six.
“Ten seconds,” she heard Sieg’s voice say.
Tentatively, Evelyn opened her eyes. Her friends were there, watching her. She could still recognize them as her friends; that was a good sign. Nia was smiling hopefully, and Sieg looked satisfied with himself.
She chanced a look down at herself. The same, slender half-elven hands. Fine, long legs. Her general waif-like frame was still as it was, and not a bit of fur in sight.
Evelyn sighed heavily and sank back against the tree whilst Nia and Firebrand moved to unlock the chains.
“See? I told you it’d work, Sweetheart.”
Evelyn wasn’t sure if she wanted to scoff at the smug grin on Sieg’s face or squeeze him in gratitude. She opted for neither and just wrapped her arms around herself as she made her way to the campfire and sat beside her wolf companion.
“Thank you, Sieg.”