So I finally got my first bit--well, not so much "done" as "relatively fit for human consumption". It's kind of rough and feels a bit everywhere, but I plan to spend quite a bit of time with this character so that should clear up soon.
The night was clear and mostly dark this close to the caves, the only light coming from stars and a thin crescent moon. Liam almost couldn't see the trail he was on, but he knew his pursuers were having just as much trouble seeing him.
"Get back here and take your beating like a man, freshmeat!" The voice sounded distant enough that Liam stopped and turned around to fire off a retort.
"Bite me, sophwhores!" Alright, so it wasn't that clever. But allowances should definitely have been made for the circumstances. He got ready to run again, but as his eyes passed over the rocks at the side of the road they were drawn upward, settling on a space that was darker than the rest of the night. A cave. Perfect. Liam climbed up as quickly and quietly as he could, but the pounding of sneakers on gravel was drawing slowly closer.
"Hurry up," a voice whispered, and Liam found himself level with the cave. He rolled in, planning to lay still and quiet until the bullies were gone, but of course that wasn't going to happen: the cave floor was sloped and smooth, and his momentum carried him down and down, rolling like a giant lumpy sausage. The rolling never really got dangerous, though. It was more like rolling down grassy hills with his sister when they were little, except without all the annoying stopping and having to climb back up.
"Are you almost finished, child?"
Immediately Liam came to a dusty halt. Firelight shone steadily on the walls of a long cavern, at the far end of which sat an old person in a tall chair that had apparently been carved directly out of the wall. "Sorry," he said, "I was just looking for a place to hide."
"Well you've certainly found one. Most people can't even see the entrance up there." The voice echoed and wasn't quite right--too high to be a man's, but too low to be a woman's, even considering age. "Come on, then, come closer so I can get a good look at you."
Great, Liam thought as his legs obeyed, I've wandered into a fairy tale and now I'm going to get eaten by a wicked witch. I officially hate my life.
"If I were wicked I would've let those hooligans catch you, child. You couldn't have outrun them on your own, you're nowhere near the condition I'd have liked. I suppose it won't matter in the long run, though."
"Um, excuse me..."
"What?" The old person stopped the distant-staring thing that was making Liam's skin crawl and focused on his face again.
"I just want to know what you're talking about. You're not making any sense."
"What I'm talking about? Haven't you been paying any attention? I'm talking about you being my successor! Didn't they teach you anything out there?"
Liam was normally a pretty good boy. He respected his elders, didn't talk back, had his homework done on time, didn't get in fights, didn't curse around grown-ups. But tonight he'd been chased into the middle of nowhere by a bunch of guys from his school he hardly even recognized and was now being forced to interact with a senile old cave-hobo of indeterminate gender, so he wasn't, necessarily, behaving normally at the moment. He turned around and walked back to the entrance of the cave and didn't speak ("If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.") until he came to the spot where the slope was supposed to be and found only another solid wall.
"What the hell is going on here?!"
The voice that echoed--no, reverberated--back to him from the other end of the cave was definitely a woman's voice now. More importantly, it was the voice of a woman you obeyed or else.
"To leave this place requires power you lack. Accept your place as my successor and you will have that power. Refuse and you will not only die but possibly doom this entire plane of existence."
This got Liam's attention. "Doom? Me?"
"Possibly," the old woman clarified. "At this point there are still too many potentialities to really be certain, but a lot of them rely on you to some degree."
"Oh. Um... okay, what do I have to do? To be your successor or whatever."
"Speak up, child, I can't hear you over there."
Liam raised his voice. "I said what do I have to do to become your successor?"
"Oh, yes. It's very simple, my dear. Do you see the words inscribed on the wall above me?" The old woman waved a hand, and the light on that wall grew brighter.
"Yeah. Do you want me to say them or something?"
"If you would."
"Okay. 'Ye gods'." Without warning, two slabs of rock ripped themselves up from the cave floor and slammed together on either side of Liam. It happened so quickly that by the time his brain was beginning to register that there should be pain somewhere, the rocks had crumbled back to the ground and left him technically unharmed.
It would be difficult not to be mentally traumatized if one were suddenly transformed from a teenage boy to a grown woman, after all.
"Good, it worked. You can go home for now if you like, child."
As if he (she?) had only been waiting for the invitation, Liam turned around and kicked at the stone wall until it collapsed, revealing the slope to the cave's entrance. He didn't think about how few kicks it had taken, or about the fact that he was flying up rather than climbing, or even whether he should still be thinking of himself as "he". The only matter worth considering was how quickly he could get home.
A block from the Delaney house, it occurred to Liam that he couldn't exactly walk in as if nothing was unusual. Six-foot-tall women dressed in spandex and capes didn't traditionally associate with his family, at least not as far as he knew, so his parents and sister would be suspicious at the very least.
The park was empty at this time of night, so Liam landed there and tried to think clearly. Maybe he'd change back if he said the words again? "Ye gods," he whispered in an unfamiliar voice, and WHUMP! Soil and rock lifted up on either side and slammed together around him as before, resettling almost instantly to reveal a boy where a woman had been. Relieved at how easy it had been to change back, he immediately finished the journey home. If he could help it, he was never using that freaky power again.