Secret Org in Southport, by Tessa
Ok, so since this is a gold roll, I’m going to try to do better at backstory than usual.
Be nice, I am not a writer.
The short version: Constance’s Baby Miracle Network is a secret organization for women who can’t have children of their own, but want to experience what it’s like to care for a baby. They are paired with people who are willing to fill that role for a preset amount of time. Anywhere from a week to a year. Magic is involved. Publicly, it is a foster child organization, and the recipients of the babies tell others that they are caring for an abandoned baby until a permanent home can be found. Privately, it is much more complicated, involving a version of Baleful Polymorph that turns a willing person into a baby (of their same type, rather than into an animal). Originally founded by a wizard named Constance who had fertility issues (and is sadly no longer living), it has now served infertile couples in Southport and other regions for over six decades.
Now the longer story.
The story of this secret oranization in Southport started many years ago with a wizard named Vetus. Vetus was a powerful wizard, and not a very kind one. His favorite spell was Baleful Polymorph. Vetus just loved to transform others into little one-hit dice critters. Badgers. Big toads. Cats. Dogs. Eagles. Hawks. Monkeys. Owls. Small vipers. Very large rats. He only did it to his enemies. But he was a spiteful man. So just about anyone who crossed him, he considered an enemy.
Because of his evil tendencies (which he didn’t think of as evil; after all, he only polymorphed his enemies), a mob once attacked his wizard tower. This upset him greatly, because he didn’t have enough spells of Baleful Polymorph to use on all the peasants who tried to burn him out. He had to settle for fireballs and acid blobs, and he couldn’t sleep for days.
So, Vetus did some research, and found that there was an alchemical tree sap that could be used while casting a spell, that would give him a spell-like ability. Vetus felt better than he had in days. He immediately began to plan a quest to obtain some of this sap. Which lead him to a forest two days from Carshune City. He harvested the sap, mixed it with the proper amount of alcohol, and downed the potion.
Aah the pain! Vetus felt like his insides were on fire! He could feel the glass slivers in the mixture tearing through his digestive system. It was excruciating. He waited as long as he could stand, and then used Baleful Polymorph on a captive he had brought with him for the purpose. Immediately the pain intensified. He quickly cast two healing scrolls so he could survive the deadly process. As glass slivers fused to his insides, he felt himself getting weaker, and it seemed as though some of his very life’s experience was being tapped away. But Vetus endured the pain, holding on to the thought of all the villagers and peasants he could turn into little animals. He laughed, taking in the pain, and turning it into delight. It was worth the cost! he told himself. All of this would be worth it.
When the pain finally subsided, Vetus tried out his new power on the next person he met. A traveler he met on the road, of no consequence.
But instead of changing into an animal, the man simply turned into a smaller version of himself–a miniature man, who also seemed strangely more intelligent! Vetus cursed, and quickly destroyed the abomination. What had gone wrong?
Over the next dozen or so weeks, as he made his way back to Southport, Vetus used his new spell-like ability on scores of random peasants. And gauged the results. He found that what he had acquired was a sick twist on Baleful Polymorph. For starters, it couldn’t change anyone to an animal. Instead, it allowed him to change their size and intelligence. He could either make them one size larger and dumber (1d3 Int), or one size smaller and smarter (1d3 Int). Of course, he found this inferior to the results he wanted.
Worse still, the effect was not permanent–it wore off in a number of days equal to his wizard caster level! And if the taret was not happy with the change, they got a +8 bonus to their Will save to reverse it. Because of its weaknesses, the spell only counted as level 4 instead of 5. Vetus was furious. What a waste!
The wizard Vetus, who was not kind, hated the result, but still occasionally took a wicked delight in trying it on someone unsuspecting. Though it rarely worked because anyone with the barest modicum of willpower could overcome the effect. In private, he also found frequent use for it on himself when he needed to be brilliant. As a wizard, that often came in handy.
Vetus had an apprentice named Carmody. Carmody begged Vetus to teach him this unique new spell. But because it was a spell-like ability, Vetus could not scribe it or teach it. Carmody was envious of Vetus, for he also had a wicked imagination, and could think of many uses for the spell. Which Vetus routinely dismissed. He didn’t care for an army of powerful stupid giants. Or a horde of smart munchkins. Vetus disliked relying on others. He preferred to ruin their lives, and if he needed anyone, they could ruin his.
After his master died, Carmody spent years and years (and lots of gold) trying to research a duplicate of the spell.
But he failed.
The closest he ever came was another twist on Baleful Polymorph. This new spell only affected one body part of the target. (Well, two if the part was symmetrically paired with another of the same kind, like arms or ears.) But the new spell was even MORE temporary than his former master’s spell-like ability. It lasted just hours per caster level. The spell caused one point of intelligence gain when making a body part smaller, and 1 point of intelligence loss for making a part larger. It gave a +4 bonus to the target’s Will save to resist the change if they didn’t like it, making it a little more useful than Vetus’s polymorph for targeting someone who wasn’t willing. Because of its many weaknesses, the spell only counted as a third level wizard spell.
Carmody tried the spell a few times to make his arms bigger (wow, greater strength). Or to make his nose smaller when dealing with odiferous materials (hmm, smarter and less able to smell). But for the most part, he found the spell a severe disappointment. Ashamed of his failure, the wizard Carmody never shared the spell with anyone. He was no closer to being able to raise an army of bashing giants or clever munchkins. Actually, he wasn’t that interested anymore in creating an army. At this point he had a near obsession with trying to duplicate Vetus’s ability with a spell.
So he continued his research, and eventually came up with another spell. But he found it even more useless!
Carmody’s second polymorph caused the target person to become a tiny and younger-looking version of themselves – in other words, to become a baby.
Most everything else about Baneful Polymorph was the same. The new shape interfered with the their abiity to speak. And if they remained in the new infant shape for more than 24 hours, they lost their reasoning and other adult abilities, until the spell was dispelled. An important difference was that the spell’s effects would also wear off if the “baby” aged naturally far enough to acquire speach–their first word broke the spell. Of course, the spell didn’t actually make someone younger. If they took a year to learn their first word, that was a year lost from their maximum lifespan. Most disconcerting to Carmody, the person affected had a +8 bonus to their Will save. If they didn’t like the baby transformation effect, they could easily will themselves back to their normal form. They just had to do it before the effect became semi-permanent at 24 hours.
Carmody cursed his poor fortune, having wasted so much time and treasure on a lackluster spell. And one that didn’t even rise above the 3rd level of wizardry because of its weaknesses! He tested it in several situations. But he eventually had to admit it had zero value as an offensive spell. And he had absolutely no interest in babies. He was out of money and gave up on his research.
Disgusted with his fruitless efforts, Carmody filed away this second polymorph spell in his spellbook, and didn’t use it further. It would have been lost forever, forgotten. But then something unexpected happened.
Like Vetus, Carmody also had an apprentice of his own, a young wizard named Kletus. When his master met an untimely death, Kletus went through all of Carmody’s things, delighted as a boy who had found the toy shop was left unlocked at night. He found the two unwanted polymorph spells in Carmody’s spellbook. Two previously unknown spells! He cursed the dead wizard Carmody for keeping them from him, and delighted in his find.
Kletus was not a very honest wizard. Having a bit of an imagination, he scoffed at Carmody’s boring names for them (Useless Polymorph 1 & 2). Kletus called them Kletus’s Resizing and Kletus’s Downsizing, taking credit for his dead master’s research. And began to imagine possible uses for them.
Kletus was a bit of a creep. Okay, he was a big creep. His first thought was to try to use the Resizing spell to enhance his manhood. Initially he was pleased with the results. Until he noticed that it also made him stupider. And it didn’t help him get any girls, because he was still a creepy jerk.
The second thing that the creepy wizard Kletus tried using his Resizing spell on was an unsuspecting woman, to increase her womanly endowments. He found the lady’s reaction so amusing that he did it again the next day to another woman. Fortunately, the wife of the captain of the guard of Southport, who happened to be a wizard, was also walking past Kletus at the same time he tried doing this. The lady wizard immediately identified Kletus as the culprit. He was arrested and locked away in prison, and his spellbook was siezed.
Within a week of Kletus’ incarceration, a brother of his first victim and the father of his second were racing to see who could be the the one to have him assassinated. The father won.
When she heard that Kletus had died in prison, the wife of the captain of the guard, whose name was Constance, asked her husband, Sir Jeffrey Winegaard, what would happen to the creepy wizard’s spellbook. Sir Jeffrey told her he wasn’t sure, and asked if she would like to have a look at it. Indeed she would.
So it happened that the spellbook containing Kletus’s Resizing and Downsizing polymorph spells made its way into the hands of Constance Winegaard, a wizard of some talent. She began to study it, and was surprised by the possibilities it contained.
Constance and Sir Jeffrey had been married for 11 years. And although they loved each other very much and regularly did the things that loving couples do, they had been unable to turn their efforts into a little baby of their own. Both of them dearly wanted to become parents. Their lack of children had especially become a constant source of heartache for Constance. When Constance found Kletus’s Downsizing spell, it gave her a small hope that she might have found a way to experience what it would be like to raise a baby.
She tried it on her husband one night, after explaining it to him and getting his permission.
Sir Jeffrey immediately resisted the spell (as planned), and he turned back into an adult. Encouraged, they tried it again the next night, now that they knew it could easily be resisted. Sir Jeffrey again turned into a little baby version of himself, complete with a fuzzy head of dark hair, and cute little dimples. Constance picked him up and cuddled him, cooed at him, and rocked him. Jeffrey, able to think clearly as if he were still an adult, endured this for as long as he could stand it. He let his wife hold him as a baby for a few hours, before willing himself to change back.
But this time he failed the effort, and Sir Jeffrey started to panic.
He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t explain what was wrong. He felt trapped. Immediately Jeffrey imagined he was going to stay a baby for an entire year!
When “baby” Jeffrey began to wail and fuss, Constance dispelled the spell’s effect. In an instant, Sir Jeffrey was himself again. But the experience had shaken him, and he utterly refused to try it again.
Even though her husband was spooked about using the spell, Constance couldn’t feel more the opposite. It had felt so sweet to hold and care for a little one as if it were her own, and she longed to try it again. She pressed her husband to give it another chance, but Sir Jeffrey again refused. When she kept pestering him, he became angry and threatened to take away the spellbook.
Now it was Constance’s turn to panic! She couldn’t bear the thought of never trying the spell again. She scribed both of Kletus’s polymorph spells into her own spellbook. Then she began to dream up a scheme of how she could get another chance to make a baby.
Two weeks later, Constance returned the spellbook to Sir Jeffrey, and presented a proposal to him.
“My dear,” she said, “After experiencing what it is like for other mothers to care for a baby, I couldn’t bear to never have that again. I know it was a frightening experience for you, but for me it was utter bliss. I want to use it again, if you’ll permit it.”
Sir Jeffrey began to object, but Constance stopped him.
“Please let me finish. I understand, my love, that you would never want to try it again yourself. But what if I could find someone else who was willing? Would you agree?”
Sir Jeffrey gave the idea some thought. He asked for some time to think about it. And his wife agreed. The next day he gave Constance his decision.
“My darling Constance, you know I would do almost anything for you, if it is in my power. My brush with babyhood was more terrifying than facing a dozen enemies. I would not wish to go through that again. But if you can find a willing person, I will allow it.” To forestall Constance’s growing excitement, the captain of the guard raised a hand. “On several conditions.”
“First, I have to interview the test subject first. I have to make sure they know the risks and possible costs.”
“Second, the spell must be immediately dispelled if the baby ever becomes inconsolably upset, or is harmed in any way.”
“Third, it must be dispelled every day, and the person must be interviewed by me to make sure they are still okay with the arrangement.”
Sir Jeffrey raised a skeptical eyebrow, unsure of whether his wife would agree to the conditions.
Constance said nothing. So he finished.
“And if there is any problem, at any point in the process, it’s over. I’m not going to be party to making someone into a baby against their will.”
He looked at Constance closely. It appeared she was HOLDING HER BREATH.
Then she let out a squeal of delight.
Overjoyed, Constance hugged her husband. When she composed herself again, she told him that she already had a willing subject.
“And you’ll never guess who it is,” she said with a breathless grin.
“You’re right, I never will,” Sir Jeffrey said patiently. “Just tell me.”
“NO!” His face was a mask of total shock. But Constance had expected this, and plowed forward, now so excited that she could hardly contain herself.
“It’s just too perfect, dear. Please don’t look at me like that. I’m not joking, and I’m not insane. I’ve already spoken to him. He is very curious, and also very willing.”
This revelation caught Sir Jeffrey completely off guard. He was horrified to think of his wife feeding, bathing, and rocking his father to sleep. And what about changing his father’s diapers? Their experiment with Sir Jeffrey hadn’t gotten that far, but now he started to put it together. Sooner or later, there would be poop. Lots of poop.
Worse still, Sir Jeffrey recalled that he had been fully aware with an adult’s mind when his wife had held and cuddled him like an infant. How could he agree to let his FATHER go through that? The indignity of it! The shame! What if word ever got out? What if his father publicly denounced him?
Sir Jeffrey’s father, the elderly Sir Tristam Winegaard, was over 70 years old. And nearing the end of his famed and illustrious life. He was one of the most distinguished and revered knights of Southport. How could Sir Jeffrey’s wife Constance even think of doing this – this – BABY THING – to him? Transforming their military hero into a babbling, gurgling infant? Even the thought of it might shock the old man so much as to send him to an early grave.
But as Constance carefully explained to her husband, the old knight was already dealing with the “indignity” Sir Jeffrey spoke of. Only, he was getting it as a well-known adult. He was already at the point where he needed to have constant nursing care. And it was getting increasingly difficult, as he aged, to make that work. When he made a mess, it certainly wasn’t as simple as cleaning, washing, and dressing a baby. This was a hundred and sixty-pound retired knight. It took at least two adults to roll him over in his bed, and usually three or four to lift him.
Sir Jeffrey was thunderstruck. Constance had never spoken to him so candidly about the details of his father’s care. He hadn’t realized Sir Tristam had gotten so dependent on others. He paused, considering these points.
Constance could see she was winning the argument, and she pressed her advantage.
“Making your father smaller would make it easier to care for him,” she explained. “And he could keep his dignity, because no one would need to know that it was Sir Tristam that they were caring for. To everyone but us, he would be a simple, cute, baby.”
“Or a loud and stinky one,” Sir Jeffrey countered gruffly.
“Yes, dear, babies are not pleasant all the time.” Constance smiled. She could see that Sir Jeffrey was already seriously considering the notion of transforming his father. “But most of the time it will be me who will be caring for him. So you needn’t worry yourself about poopy diapers.”
She had already planned with the elderly Sir Tristam that they would change him back at the end of each day, so that he never lost his reasoning ability. Even though the wizard Kletus had been a creep, she felt grateful to him for the painstaking notes he had recorded about what to expect from the spell. Most of the important parts were at the beginning, in the first 24 hours, or at the end, when the baby spoke its first word.
Of course the wizard had left out all the interesting bits. What it would be like to rock the baby to sleep. Cutting its first tooth. Taking its first step. The wonder of exploring the world together through new eyes. She caught her breath, taking in the beauty of what she might finally experience. The miracle of raising a baby!
Constance chided herself for her sentimentality, remembering that she still needed to fully convince her husband.
“I already have a cover story, dear, to tell the servants.”
“Oh?” Sir Jeffrey looked interested.
“Yes, it would make them wonder, if I suddenly started caring for a baby boy. As you and I both know, babies don’t just grow on trees. They have to come from somewhere. You will say that the child had been found abandoned in the city. We both know that has happened before, and unfortunately it will happen again.”
Sir Jeffrey grunted, listening.
“We will tell them that you brought the baby to me to care for, just until the true parents, or an adoptive permanent home, could be found. And since the spell will wear off within a year, we will need them to expect him to only be with us temporarily. This way, they will not be alarmed when we tell them that the baby was eventually sent to another home.” She smiled in satisfaction, pleased with her own cleverness.
This sounded a little too convenient to Sir Jeffrey, and he left the room to go talk it over alone with his father. To his surprise, his father Sir Tristam was indeed happy with the possibility. Jeffrey found that the old man understood fully what his wife was asking. And his father was more than a little bit interested in giving it a try.
Seeing that he was clearly outflanked, Sir Jeffrey accepted the plan, and and gave Constance permission to make the arrangements.
Once again, Constance was already a step ahead of him, and had a nursery already set up in the room ajoining their bedchamber. The servants readily accepted the cover story.
And so Constance Winegaard was able to try the spell on her father-in-law, the elderly knight Sir Tristam, that very night. After checking once more with him that this was truly his desire, Sir Jeffrey watched as Constance intoned the words that began the spell. And he watched as his aged father became, in an instant, a tiny and fragile newborn babe.
At once his heart went out the the little baby, and he stepped forward to wrap his father in the soft receiving blanket that they had ready for him. How tiny he was! How light! And how perfectly formed and precious!
Jeffrey looked into the little baby’s eyes, and saw that a hint of intelligence was still there, as his father unnaturally tracked his face and movements. It did feel weird. But it also felt wonderful. He hadn’t been prepared for the connection he would so quickly feel for his father in this form. He wanted to do everything in his power to protect him and provide for him. He wanted to be the best father this little one could possibly have.
Jeffrey wanted to hold him longer. But his wife reached out her arms for the the baby. For Sir Tristam, Jeffrey reminded himself. He carefully set the little one into his wife’s arms, and watched as her face lit with the glow of concern and focused attention. He watched, transfixed, as she brought the bottle to the baby’s cherubic lips. As she cooed to him gently while he fed. And then helped him get out his air bubbles. And sang him to sleep. He had never seen his wife so happy. And he felt it too.
Jeffrey Winegaard looked around, realizing that at least two hours had passed, but it had hardly seemed like five minutes. He looked at his wife Constance, so motherly, so serene, and knew that this had been a good decision.
The next day, when Constance turned Sir Tristam back to an adult, the old man said that the previous 23 hours had been the most wonderful day of his life.
His only complaint was that it once took too long for his diaper to be changed.
Constance apologized for that mistake, and he readily forgave her.
They agreed that he would continue to try the spell for another day.
The next day also went well, and the day after that. Each time, Constance dispelled the effect before 24 hours had passed. And each time, Sir Tristam reported that he wouldn’t mind if they “forgot” to undo it the next day.
Of course, Constance laughed when he said this. But Sir Jeffrey just nodded, glad that his father was happy, and that his wife was happy. But vigiland about anything that might go wrong.
After two weeks of this, the elderly Sir Tristam, when he was turned back into an adult, asked his son and daughter-in-law for a favor. Of course, they agreed.
“I’m not going to live much longer,” he told them. “And I have never been happier. These last two weeks have been like a glimpse of heaven. And once we got nursing figured out, it has been even better.”
Constance blushed at this. She enjoyed that part too, but it was so embarrassing to talk about it with him!
Lactation had not come easily. It had taken 20 different tries with alchemical ingredients to find a potion that would get her milk to start flowing. But she was very grateful for the results. It made the whole experience that much more complete.
Sir Tristam continued, not minding her embarrassment.
“If it would not be too much to ask, I want this to be the last time I am a man. I have been hinting that I want to stay a baby after you change me. But you don’t seem to understand that I’m serious. Please, just let the change remain permanent tomorrow night. It would be the greatest gift you could give me. Let me slip into the peaceful oblivion of a baby’s simple thoughts. Simple needs. Simple pleasures. I can’t think of a better way to leave this life.”
He squeezed Constance’s hand, smiling at her. “You have been so attentive as a mother, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have care for me. If I can repay you a small bit by fulfilling your dream of being a parent, then I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Constance wiped the tears from her eyes, and looked to her husband Jeffrey, who nodded his consent. After a few brief hugs, they said their goodbyes to each other. Then Constance changed the “old man” back, and wrapped the little baby, now a newborn again, into his sanitary napkin and swaddling clothes.
They arranged to have Sir Tristam’s funeral the following week, with Constance using spells to make another man’s corpse appear to be the body of the old knight. It was a lovely funeral, well attended by the nobility, gentility, merchants and tradesmen, and the lower classes as well.
Publicly, Sir Jeffrey and lady Constance mourned the loss of his great and distinguished father.
But privately, they reveled in the joys of caring for a baby of their own, whom they named Tristam after the recently “deceased” old knight.
All the servants adored him, and even Jeffrey took turns bathing and burping the little one, when Constance would let him. She knew that she would have to give him up before long, and she wanted to get the most she could out of it.
As the days became weeks, and then turned to months, Constance and Jeffrey both grew to love and appreciate his father in new and surprising ways, in this new form.
Four months later, baby Tristam passed away during the night while sleeping peacefully.
One thing they didn’t have notes about in Kletus’s spellbook was what to expect when a downsized “baby” died. As it became clear that the “baby” Tristam was nearing the end of his life, they had made preparations.
Just to be safe, they had changed to sleeping with him in their own bed, which also made it easier for Constance to nurse him while she slept. And any change in his breathing rhythm woke her immediately. So she was aware his life was slipping away before the end, and was able to hold his little hand as it slowly became lifeless.
The infant’s body did not return to its adult form. Sir Jeffrey and Constance wept when they found he would not awake. But they were comforted knowing that he had finished his life the way he had wished. And that Tristam had died contented and at well-cared for.
They held a second, more private funeral for the baby Tristam. All their household turned out to mourn for the precious little boy. Their hearts ached for the loss of their little one. But they had known this day would come, and they had been ready for it.
Gradually, their lives returned to some semblance of normalcy. But they had been forever changed by the experience.
The next time they discussed the idea of transforming a person into an baby, several months later, it was actually Sir Jeffrey who brought it up.
“I’ve been thinking, my dear,” he began, wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist.
“Of what?” She had an idea, but she wanted to give him a chance to share what was on his mind.
“About Tristam.” They hadn’t referred to the baby, or his father, with the honorific “Sir” since the baby had passed away. To them, they were one and the same. But they preferred to remember him as he was by his choice, at the end.
She nodded, letting out a sigh and settling against his chest.
“I think about him often too. It was such a remarkable gift that he gave us. I will be forever grateful.”
“As will I.” Sir Jeffrey paused for a long while, and Constance finally pulled back so she could look up at him. She found his eyes moist with emotion. He cleared his throat, and tried to regain his composure.
“Yes, it was a gift. Both for us AND for him,” Sir Jeffrey said, his voice cracking. “And I keep thinking, we can’t be the only three people who would benefit from something like that.” He paused again, and Constance ventured to help out her husband.
“Are you thinking of trying it again?”
“Maybe, sometime in the future. I’m still savoring the memory of it. The loss was poignant, at the end. But there were so many other parts of it that were fulfilling, and even joyful. I don’t want to just repace that right away with another baby.”
Constance dared a small smile. This was the first time her husband had mentioned the idea of doing it again. She was hopeful he would be willing again, and this comforted her more than she wanted to tell him. But she could tell there was something else he was also thinking of, and she wanted to give him time to share it. She wrapped her arms around him, thinking to nudge him forward with her warmth.
He took another deep breath, and hugged her back.
“I keep thinking that there must be other couples who yearn for a child,” he said. And probably other people who would want to be one.” Sir Jeffrey rallied his thoughts, remembering what it was like to be helpless, and having no one who he could trust to help him, except his dear wife. Even knowing her as well as he did. Even knowing that she loved him completely. And that she would never do anything willingly to harm him. Even with all those assurances, he had never felt anything so raw and primal as that sheer panic when he believed, to the core of his being, that he was going to be stuck in that helpless state.
“I don’t know what their motives could be,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to offer it to anyone who would misuse such a position of trust. But perhaps we could reach out, quietly see who might want to give it a try. And then decide if there’s a good enough reason to let them.”
Constance didn’t answer right away. It was so like her husband, to come to the place of considering something long after she had visited it in detail. Should she tell him that she had already talked with four women about the possibility? Or that she already had two dozen other potential adults who wanted to give a second babyhood a chance?
She had rejected two men who seemed to have perverse reasons for wanting to play the part of an infant, and she had wiped their memories of the conversation. One of them, after she had investigated him further, she had needed to deal with harshly.
She had suspected that he had harmed children in the past, and she had found evidence in his home that confirmed her suspicions. Constance had felt no pleasure in killing the man. But it had felt satisfying when she went in disguise to the city guard. She has passed on the anonymous tip that led them to the dead man’s home. There had been an investigation, and the matter was treated appropriately.
But Sir Jeffrey had never spoken of it to her.
She knew he probably believed her feelings about chidren to be too delicate to trouble her with such a case. If only he could have seen her as she crushed the man’s windpipe, strangling him with one of the bits of children’s clothing she had found in his townhome. It hadn’t been easy. But she had been resolute.
Constance didn’t stop herself now as the tears came to her eyes. Her husband held her more tightly, and she let him believe it was for the hopeful words he had spoken.
“Thank you, dear,” she whispered. “I would like that very much.”
And so it was that Constance’s Miracle Baby Network was born. She carefully screened and selected couples for the roles of parents. And others for the roles of babies.
She let Sir Jeffrey do the background investigations.
She didn’t care for vigilante justice, and knew she would kill again if she found another criminal like the one she had executed. She refused to think of it as murder. But still, there was a proper process for such things, and it was better for her not to get involved on that level if she wanted to stay on the right side of the law.
They did have some hiccups in the early years. The most unexpected one was a girl/woman named Ruth. Ruth’s babyhood was dispelled when she began speaking, about a year and a half after her transformation. For those not familiar with infant milestones, that is uncommonly late.
Ruth had begun walking early, at nine months. And it seemed that having acquired a means of getting what she wanted (mobility), the baby girl had put off developing language for an unusually long period.
It was almost as if she was delaying it on purpose.
This was confirmed when Ruth pleaded, with tear-filled eyes, that Constance turn her back again. She had loved her babyhood, when she became self-aware enough to reflect on it. And she was just starting to enjoy toddlerhood. She felt cheated to have it ripped from her.
The couple who had raised her was also distraught. They had not forgottien that “baby” Ruth was really an adult woman inside her infantile likeness. But when she had failed to transform back to adulthood at the year mark, they had begun to hope that the effect might be permanent. They had gotten used to the idea of raising the little girl all the way to adulthood. And now that hope had been taken from them.
Constance insisted that what they asked for was impossible. The most she could do would be to change the Ruth back into a newborn baby, and repeat the process over again.
Ruth agreed to this. But the couple would not.
It had felt like a death for them when their little girl had changed back to an adult. They weren’t sure if they could handle going back again to caring for her as an infant. Only to know that it would be cut short again just as they started to reach the interesting parts.
For they already had experienced together the joys and wonders of the early years. What they wanted most now, having brought the little girl to the point of starting to run, and learning to do some things for herself, was the next stage. The adventure of helping the child explore her growing independence. They regretted they had to let go of that dream, but they didn’t want to keep approaching those milestones and never actually experiencing them, like a yo-yo pulling on their heartstrings.
Constance gave this dilemma much thought and study. And having grown in her abilities as a wizard, she decided to embark on a research project to find a solution.
It took ten years.
After countless hours of exploration, trials, errors, dead-ends, and failures, Constance finally was able to develop a spell of her own, which she called Constance’s Greater Downsizing.
It was much like the original by Kletus. (She never discovered that he was not the true author of the Lesser Downsizing spell.) But instead of only lasting until the target acquired language, the spell was potentially permanent.
The person still had a +8 bonus to a Will save to end the spell. This could be exercised before the spell had been in place for 24 hours. Then the person lost their normal abilities and gained the ones of their infant form. And they began developing normally as an infant (though their true age was not changed).
A new Will save could be repeated each year, beginning when the person started to speak. And each anniversary afterward.
The +8 bonus to their Will save diminished gradually by 1 each year, until the target person reached age 8 and no longer received a bonus. Then the spell would truly become permanent.
All the person’s memories of their former life would return gradually as they grew and developed. So they would feel as though this was not their first life. And eventually, when they were “old enough,” they would understand that they had two childhoods worth of experience, coexisting in their minds. And eventually, around age 8, before their last chance for a Will save to reverse the process, they would known and understand why they were the way they were.
The new spell was an instant success.
With the new Greater Downsizing spell, Constance was able to offer couples and would-be babies the option of experiencing a full childhood together.
For the would-be baby, it was a complete second chance on life. They would not truly be starting over. Because both their former life and new life would cumulatively count against their maximum biological age. So, for their second life, they would seem to die young. And they would eventually get back all their memories and experience of their former life. So they would seem to be unusually wise for their age.
For the would-be parents, Constance’s Miracle Baby Network gave them the chance they had always wanted. To love and care for a baby that they could call their own. They kept well the secret of the network’s true workings, and quietly shared with other couples the source of their joy as parents.
The network steadily grew, taking on other wizards who learned the Downsizing spells (they also kept the Resizing spell, but usually did not use it). And they brought in other staff as necessary.
By the time of Sir Jeffrey’s death, more than 40 years after the inception of the network, it had expanded its operations into two other geographic regions. When Constance passed away another nine years later, the private records of her “foster care” network counted more than 300 “babies” that had been successfully reared to their second adulthood, and another 122 “babies” that had ended their infancy at the time they spoke their first word. There were even several “repeat” babies. The record was one girl who had experienced three full childhoods in her lifetime, and was on her way to completing her fourth when she died.
Constance’s legacy continues to grow, blessing hearts and providing a new lease on life, and a first lease on parenthood, for many for the forseeable future.