Chapter 7

The week had passed rather uneventfully. Lazar had been going out every night alone to speak with Nuha and drop off certain miscellaneous supplies that she had requested. During the day while he maintained the shop, he made sure to keep his ears bent on seeking out any news of the Arisen "spy." Occasionally, he would hear snippets of gossip about her, but most was just speculation; after all, how could one of those "zombies" penetrate the defenses of the League?

Lazar smirked to himself as he packed the latest supplies Nuha had requested into a small satchel. The sun was setting as it usually did when he set out to their standard location. The air was still warm from the day. The days had been growing warmer, and the crops in the fields outside the city looked as though they would open and bear their fruit any day now.

Gracefully, he flitted through the dense foliage of the Dead Thicket. He had grown to know the way to her hideout, and was working on coming up with other paths. After all, his path would only pass as an animal trail for so long.

"Nuha!" He called out as he floated his way up to her niche in the mountainside.

"Did you bring it?" she asked, expectantly, but in a rather good mood. Her odd voice was something he had grown used to hearing, and now he could detect the different emotions in it.

"Yes, right here," Lazar replied, passing over the satchel.

"Good, very good. I've almost finished it."

"Really?" Lazar asked excitedly, "Do you need anything else?"

"Just… this," Nuha said as she reached over and plucked a few hairs from Lazar's head.

"Oi!" he exclaimed, more out of shock than actual pain. "What do you need my hair for?" Lazar asked, curious now as to what Nuha had been making.

"This," Nuha replied as she displayed a rather interesting looking beaker with the most peculiar fluid sloshing around inside it. Lazar raised an eyebrow at her, confused as to what she was hinting at. "It's a transformation potion. I've made enough to last for a week, should I be delayed in my mission. I'll just need to ration it out."

"And what is it supposed to turn you into?" He asked, somewhat hesitantly. If this was going where he thought it was going, he would go and abort this mission of hers. There was no way he was going to let her run around looking like him.

"It should only give me the general form of an Elf," she supplied nonchalantly. "I've crafted it so that I'll still look somewhat like myself, but it'll help to hide my prosthetics."

"You're sure it'll only do that? We Elves have wings; we'll notice if we have someone walking around in the shape of an Elf who doesn't have our natural grace, per say."

"I know what I'm doing. As much as I hate to admit it, I have seen Elves before. In the prison camps." Lazar's jaw clenched. He never did hear of what happened to those on conquered allods. He'd never really thought of what happened, either. "I was ordered to catch League fugitives, but that was a long time ago. I do not wish to bring up any blemishes that the Empire has that will challenge the peace Yasker seeks to bring."

"I'll forgive you on behalf of the Elves this once," Lazar told her, somewhere a cross between a stern and somber expression. "Now, let's see this potion work."

Nuha raised the container to her lips and drank a large gulp before replacing the stopper on the flask. The actual process of the potion's transformation was strange, and seemed almost painful. It looked as though her flesh and skeleton had melted and turned into a wax or clay. It ran down her prosthetics, completely coating them in flesh, and the arms themselves seemed to condense and shrink from their clunky forms, becoming dainty, delicate things. From her back, a set of iridescent insectoid winds sprouted, the translucent blue held in place by a cloud of golden light. Perhaps the most horrifying part of it to watch was the reformation of her face. The skin seemed to melt over her mask, and her body appeared to just absorb it into her skull. The skin looked like it was repairing itself, turning from the shades of decay, to dark olive and then lightening to a soft honey tone.

The creature that now stood before Lazar was no longer Arisen, but it didn't seem like it was completely Elven, either. Her hair remained dark, her eyes the glowing green, and she stood firmly on the ground instead of hovering over it, still rather tall for an Elf, but now closer to an acceptable size. Sufficient to say, it seemed as though she didn't have the natural grace of the Elves, but instead she held herself in such a manner of authority that one wouldn't dare ask questions.

Lazar eyed her up and down. She was still wearing her healer garb, complete with Empire insignia, but now she no longer seemed so strange, so foreign. She appeared as someone he might have grown up with. A small smile crossed his lips at the thought.

"So this works?" Nuha asked, taking his smile as a confirmation that she was disguised well enough now.

"In a way, yes. However, we're gonna need to get you some new clothes. We can't have you looking like an Elf parading around in Empire apparel." Lazar took a minute to think. It appeared that neither he nor Nuha had, up to this point, considered the problem of clothes.

"Could you somehow attain some clothes for me? Borrow a set from a neighbor?" Nuha hazarded to suggest. Lazar gave her a quizzical look.

"Borrow from a neighbor? Where'd you get that idea?"

"It's another long story, pertaining to me not quite willingly aiding an elf escape back home," she told him in turn.

Lazar looked at her. How does someone not realize they're helping someone else? But she said not to inquire about it, so he did his best to push the thought to the back of his mind.

Meanwhile, he considered the possibility of loaning her one of his own outfits. However, he quickly dashed that thought from his mind. She was still quite taller than him, meaning that none of his clothes would fit her even half decently.

"It will be challenging, but I'm sure I could find you some clothes. Would you… um… mind giving me your size so I can… um… find clothes that might fit you?" He asked, awkwardly. From all his experiences, asking a woman her dress size was a huge taboo. As she was an Arisen, he had his doubts that, even if she gave him her size, it might be in a different set of units.

He was correct in his assumption. Although what she told him was in the standard units of the Empire, it was still a drastically different system than what was commonly used in the League. He sighed inwardly. To solve the clothing problem temporarily, he might just have to resort to the suggestion that she had given. He didn't like it too much, but it gave her a much better chance at blending in.

"Well, as you have a limited reserve of that potion, I think it would be best if I got on the job of finding you some clothes right now. It would be much easier to… borrow a girl's outfit without any people awake, asking questions as to why I of all people need a lady's dress," he said.

Nuha nodded in agreement. "Perhaps, if you could even return it to me by the morning, I can get to Aidenus faster."

"And if anyone asks any questions, you will be a friend I met in one of my travels to Siveria," he added. No doubt Dmitri would ask about who this woman was. She no longer looked like an Arisen, but there were still significant pointers about her person that would tip off any person that she was not from around here. "I'll be back as fast as I can!" Lazar called as he left her once again.