(Many thanks to Mr. Peaches from Transformation Story Archives for writing this as a Christmas Story Exchange present)
(Ty is mine, Curtis and Vanessa are generic characters)
Silver coins sprayed out from beneath Ty's shoes like slurry as he dashed about the stone dome, the smell of rock, sweat, and metal fresh in his nostrils. Near the entrance arch, Curtis finished pushing a huge stone bench into position. On the other side, long stairs led down into diminishing darkness. Curtis's mag light was clenched in his teeth like a huge dog bone, and his well-used crowbar lay nearby on a pile of copper coins. Below, lights grew steadily brighter, and excited hollering drifted up to them from the darkness. Wide-eyed, Curtis turned back to the dome and his two companions, wiping his perspiring forehead with a hand caked in stone dust.
"For the love of God, you two, hurry it up! They're gonna be so pissed when they found out we got here first!"
Since the Dungeons, lots of horror stories that began this way cropped up: a starry eyed group of misfits would finally make it to the end of a deadly labyrinth, only to face another group that had arrived there via a different route. Sometimes a compromise would be reached.
But mostly there was blood.
"If it's those anime nerds," Ty stammered nervously as he held his burned and bandaged arm carefully to one side, "The, ah, 'Naruto's Ninjas,' we could be all right..."
Vanessa, the acrobat of the group, raised her voice to be heard over the clanking of the coins she was shoveling into their backpacks. "And if it's the 'Party Crashers...'"
This spurred the two gatherers into frenzied activity. Vanessa was tasked with acquiring as much raw treasure as she could. Ty, well...
Ty was looking for magic.
"C'mon, people! Communicate with me!" Curtis barked, head craned over his concrete barricade at the approaching rivals. "Remember, 'Closed Comm is Closed Casket!'"
"I've got lots of copper here, I think!" Vanessa reported over the jingling. "Silver, platinum maybe? A fair bit of these coins have a lot of gems set into them, though!" Despite the tense situation, the Coleman lantern revealed a smile on her pretty freckled cheeks. If they could get out of here, if they could make it back home with all this loot...
"Uh!" Ty chimed in, rummaging through a recess set into the side of the cold stone walls. "A couple boxes here! Coins, coins, more coins... Chalice!"
"Bag it!" Curtis said. "Remember, let Vanessa get the coins! You look for stuff that looks like it could be magical!"
You could watch reports on Youtube from hundreds of victorious treasure hunters. They all got out with gobs of precious materials, and that was wondrous enough, but the *other* things they started to find, well...
"Look! Look at this shit!" one manic delver had vlogged, upending a graceful curved ornate platinum chalice. Burgandy liquid poured out of the cup into a large bucket... and kept pouring... and kept pouring... "It doesn't run out!" the vlogger had crowed, scratching excitedly at a long scar running down one cheek. "I keep pouring it but it doesn't run out!"
"I keep seeing her," a teary eyed vlogger said, fingering a heavy emerald pendant around her neck. "I don't know what she wants, but she keeps showing up, and when she does... I don't know." The comments on this video had ended up starting a miniature ARG. It was never entirely proven if 'the girl' was benevolent or malign, but the storm of interest made her a celebrity.
Perhaps the most powerful of the videos had been seven seconds of footage of a known dungeon victor in his bedroom. He'd switched on his camera, tears streaming down his face and the most joyful, innocent smile Ty had ever seen. The delver had said only:
"I can fly... oh my God... I can fly." And that was the end of the video.
So the hunt was on as Curtis psyched himself up to hail the approaching rival dungeon party, Vanessa shoved a bloated bag aside and began stuffing another, and Ty frantically darted about the room, shoveling any object remotely whimsical, suspicious-looking, or things that caught his fancy. As he filled the bag, he called out what he got-any dungeon group soon learned the importance of excessive communication. "Ring! Ring! Ring again! Bracelet! Goblet! Ring!"
"Mirror!" the youth picked up an ornate mirror perhaps ten inches across, circular. The mirror itself was of copper polished so finely it might as well have been glass. The rim was of gold, with an aqua stone set on the north, south, east and west faces. Some stones were chipped, and the frame was dented a little, but it was without a doubt a magnificent find.
"These dungeons fell from the sky... is that how you got dented?" Ty mused. "Because it almost looks like you're, well... ancient. But... if you are, then where did you come from?"
He caught sight of himself in the burnished metal; his eyes glinting with a hint of the treasure lust he saw in countless delvers before him. He brushed a lock of sweaty hair from his face and looked into his own eyes. He was so tired... it had been nothing but fighting and running for days, or maybe just many hours. The youth leaned back a little woozily, feeling almost comfortable, encapsulated in a gentle sleeve that saught only to *know,* to *uncover...*
Similar vague, confusing and fruity thoughts flitted across his unconscious as he gazed into the mirror. Looking at himself in his sudden mental haze got him to thinking of how he'd *like* to be, and Ty supposed that if he could *choose* how he'd like to be well then he'd obviously be a-
*SPANGGGG!* For an instant the Ty on the other side of the mirror was lost to a mass of what looked like hair, then the copper mirror exploded outward toward Ty's face as if a cannonball had punched through from the other side. One shard brushed a few stray skin cells off the tip of his nose. Another breezed a centimeter above his eye.
"AAAUGH! AAAUGH! AAAAUGH!" Ty hucked the Judas mirror from him like a frisbee, and then sound was crashing down around him as he snapped back into reality.
"DON'T-- hey, just CALM DOWN, man! We can-- dude, LISTEN to me-" Curtis was hollering down the stairs at four large, shouting men in cowboy hats. This was not Naruto's Ninjas.
"Curtis, let's just go!" Vanessa moaned in fright. "The exit's right over here! We have enough, let's just *go!*"
"NO WAY... MIGHT HAVE TAKEN THE... HOW DO WE KNOW THEY DIDN'T JUST TAKE THE BEST STUFF AND... OBVIOUSLY CHEATED..." the roar of the Party Crashers was not to be quieted.
Ty put a hand to his forehead. "Did I lose track of time? I-- HEY!" Ty bristled as the leader of the Party Crashers, a detestable old drunk, lunged over the stone bench and grabbed a fistful of Curtis' shirt, raising him up to his tiptoes. The other three streamed in, two heading for Vanessa, one for him! Soon the blaggard had Ty pinned against the wall, a lead pipe held to his throat. Breathing heavily, Ty grappled the bar but couldn't wrest it away; though his foe's teeth were yellow and his face warty, the Party Crashers were born and bred (some often said *in*bred) farmers with muscles of steel. A flash of dizziness came over Ty Solpine, and his burned right arm creaked weirdly in its bandages. His skin tingled and waves of vertigo washed over him. In his memory the mirror burst over and over again.
The thug pinning Ty smirked at the shrimpy city man in front of him. He looked like he was gonna faint away. Pussy. The oaf turned his head over his shoulder, nodding in satisfaction as Jed put the woman in a Full Nelson while Lance carried the full bags over to a nice looking pile of treasure and began filling it for the Party Crashers. He then laughed as, at the entrance, the wimp Hank was lifting into the air started to fight, causing the grinning Hank to rear back and slug the chunky pup in the chops.
"Haw, haw, haw, h-aaaugh!!" Something closed hard around the thug's arm and he stumbled back, the lead pipe wrapped around his wrist in a loop-de-loop.
"Huh... huh..." Ty glared up at the man with brilliant green eyes cut with slitted pupils. His throbbing right arm snapped the last of the bandages free, covered in silky silvery fur and twice as muscled as the thug's.
"J-j-Jesus Christ!" in a spray of coins the Party Crasher fled for the hills. Ty stumbled forward dizzily, his whole body creaking and groaning, his spine popping like an old man's. His spiking ears could hear lots of clamour and shouting, but the damnable dizziness made it impossible to get a bearing on just what was happening. Ty's back arched higher and higher as his torso lengthened, building pressure giving way to a meaty pop and squelch as muscle slid out of muscle, bone out of bone. The room was getting shorter, smaller. From his waist to his sternum the morphing man could feel bones locking into position like steel girders, while others budded off of his spine like calcium flowers.
*krrrrk!* The youth's face erupted outward, nose forced upward, mouth suddenly crowded with sharp teeth. There was a prickle like rapid five o'clock shadow as fur rushed down his narrow snout, exploding at the end into whiskers. Ty clutched at his face with his two furry handpaws as a titanic bushy silver tail shot from his trousers with a *POOMPH* and neatly brushed countless years of dust off of a large portion of the cave wall. This was quite enough for Ty's remaining clothes, and in a shower of straps, buttons, stitches and denim, they self-destructed, revealing the hulking foxbeast as he grew ever larger, the lack of clothes seeming to speed up the process.
As his height cleared the twenty foot mark the buds in his lower torso creaked and sprouted, stems of fur lengthening outwards, bending and snapping into hearty joints, and flowering into a pair of fully fledged feral fox forepaws, pads slipping about on the coin-covered floor as they scrambled for purchase. Urns and other large items went flying as Ty frantically tried to maneuver his lower body, w hich indeed was now that of a feral fox, and where a normal fox's neck would be, there sat Ty's torso, also having taken the form of an anthropomorphic fox. As his inner ear at last settled more or less into its new position, the groggy foxtaur began to catch on to what exactly had just happened, but as the curve of the treasure dome's roof suddenly forced his head down, he realized he was in serious trouble.
He was still growing.
Every muscle, bone, and vessel throbbed as sinew stacked on sinew, veins stretched and swelled, and skin stretched so that the foxtaur feared he might burst. Soon his shoulders were pressed against the dome's roof, even with his lower body laying down prone on the floor. He tried lying down, curling around the sides of the circular chamber, but all that did was get treasure poking into many uncomfortable places, an unnerving view of his new undercarriage, and a faceful of bushy tail. So he settled on bracing the roof with his shoulders, smelling the dusty stone and the panic of himself and the humans who had been here before, both his friends and the Party Crashers. He wanted to try and look down, to try and see where everyone went, but wherever he looked his massive body got in the way.
There was almost no room left in the chamber now, every space either filled with treasure or hot fox flesh and fur. Ty's breaths became shorter as his giant lungs quickly sucked the remaining oxygen from the room. The stone on his shoulders was crushingly painful. The foxtaur flinched in surprise as his ears flattened themselves out of stress, and panic began to build. He wanted to get out, to breathe! This *stupid* - he lurched against the roof furiously- roof was keeping him-lurch- from getting- lurch and strain-air!!!
*Crrrrronkle* a crack opened before Ty's eyes, either of which now weighed more than most people.
This one crack was all it took, and soon every square centimeter of vulpine muscle was throwing itself against the dome trapping the fox in a suffocating prison! Stone sprayed from widening fault lines as the rock snapped like high tension cables!
"HRRRRRAWWWR!" With one last mighty shove the top of the dungeon blew, the whole dome launching into the starry night sky like a particularly dense cork!
"HOOOWUGH! Hah... hah..." Ty got to his four feet in the chamber below and threw his upper body over the edge, panting furiously. An errant drop of spittle dripped off his tongue and went splashing in a rivulet all the way to the bottom of the massive rock spire. Oh, how divine the wind felt upon his fur! How beautiful the tail lights were below as all the merchants, onlookers and inexperienced dungeon delvers fled for the hills at the sight of a colossal beast bursting through rock like an orca out of the ocean!
Some minutes passed as the foxtaur recovered from his ordeal and transformation, an odd sense of deepest fulfillment beginning to glow within his cavernous bosom. Just as Ty was beginning to realize he was wearing the dungeon below him like a particularly ridiculous tutu...
The fox's ears perked, swinging around and knocking an errant bat out of the sky. Voices, in the chamber below! Vanessa and Curtis' voices! Ty clambered carefully out of the crater chamber and clung to the outside of the dungeon with his feral paws and claws. It was dark below, but his sharp eyes could see and his nose could smell Curtis and Vanessa as they cautiously entered the treasure chamber again from the staircase the Party Crashers had charged up. Curtis lit the Coleman lantern again and Ty winced as the both of them nearly fainted dead away at the sight of a monolithic fox face staring down at them. For a few seconds there was nothing but uncomfortable silence and staring.
Ty got the feeling he would need to lead this conversation. "Are you guys hurrr... *ahem* hurrr... *koff* hurrrt?" Vanessa and Curtis shook their heads.
"Where did the Parrrty Crasherrs go?" the giant inquired.
"They... they ran out of the dungeon exit the instant they saw you transforming," Vanessa said in a daze. "They must have figured you were turning into a second boss, or something." The slender girl turned her head to look at the dungeon exit, now completely full of rubble. "It looks like it collapsed during... um... you."
"But look!" Curtis fished a few things from the rubble. "They dropped the packs! It's... it's..."
"Karma," Vanessa and Ty agreed.
The two teeny tiny people down below looked up again at the fox. "Sssssso... I mean..." Curtis gestured at the whole of Ty, still looking woozy. "What?"
The vulpine grinned a bit in spite of himself, and his tail outside involuntarily started wagging. "Foxtaur. Macro foxtaur."
"It was... the mirror?" Perceptive Vanessa deduced.
"Yes and no," Ty admitted truthfully.
"Er... I think maybe we should get out of here now," Ty sidestepped, looking back down over the field in front of the dungeon, where all sorts of vehicles were beginning to swarm. "It's gonna get very crowded around this place soon and... well... I kinda need some time to get used to this."
"*You* gotta get used to this?!" Curtis responded, clutching his head. "I'm not even sure if my sanity can *take* this, man!!!"
*Forty-five minutes later*
"YEAAAAAH!" Cried Vanessa, sitting near the left ear.
"YEAAAAAH!" Cried Curtis, sitting near the right.
"YEAAAAAH!" Cried Ty, as he hopped over a freeway and telephone poles, charged through thin forest like bracken, and splashed through lakes like wading pools! Carried carefully under each arm were two enormous iron urns that would have towered over Ty as a man, but now were like two delicate baskets. Inside the urns was all the treasure two industrious humans and one giant fox scooping with his paws could collect before the news choppers started getting pushy. And as he ran, tongue lolling out and the smells of nature and victory in his muzzle, he couldn't help but feel that everything was going to be allllll right.