"So," said Baethira, once they were alone, "You... how to say this... you see yourself as an elf?"
Leander was quiet, expecting some sort of rebuke, but Darvinin's mother merely sat there, studying him with a sort of daft curiosity that was utterly lacking in malice. After a time he said, "Yes. I've always felt that I was supposed to be an elf."
Baethira nodded. "How so?"
"This body, my body... It does what I need, but it doesn't feel right. I mean, I'm athletic, I'm healthy, clever; there's nothing wrong with my body. It just isn't mine, if that makes any sense at all. For all the ways that I've learned to use it, it doesn't feel right on me."
"Hm." Baethira's gaze turned evaluative, then thoughtful. "Then I suppose you may be under a curse. I'd like to try a spell on you, if you'll permit it. If you were truly meant to be an elf, it may restore you -- or at least bring you closer to your true self."
Leander narrowed his eyes. "Is it dangerous?"
Baethira gave a gentle shrug. "All change is dangerous, dear. But this one carries no physical risks."
Leander considered that, then said: "Ah." He thought a moment longer, then added: "I'll permit it. Whatever I learn... Well, I probably needed to know it."
Baethira nodded and stood. "Stay in your chair, dear. This may take a little time."
Then she began a spell. Leander had no training in magic and no real sense of it, but even he could feel the forces the elvish wizard was gathering. The room seemed to ripple under their weight, and for a moment Baethira's presence made everything around her feel unreal. Then she finished, and he felt a little ripple move through him; for one brief moment, Leander himself felt unreal.
Then she nodded sharply and knelt beside him. "Ah, yes. Here it is." She bent down, and touched a ring on the littlest finger of his left hand.
"...What?" he asked, befuddled. "That... isn't mine. I've never worn a ring there."
"It was hidden, dear," said Baethira. "Of course you wouldn't have put anything else on that finger; the ring wouldn't have let you." She set her fingers on it. "Now, let's see what happens when we take it off you."
She motioned for him to stand, and he complied. Then she drew the ring off. Like a wedding ceremony in reverse, he thought, and then reached for the chair to steady himself as the entire room shrunk around him. "Ahhh..." He swayed on his feet, which were suddenly further away than he remembered, but caught his balance with surprising ease. "...What in Corellon's name...?"
His limbs were long and lean, graceful. He stood eye-level with Baethira. His clothes had somehow altered with him, which seemed a minor magic under the circumstances. His shortsword and his daggers seemed too short; when he touched them, their hilts felt too small for his hands. "What have you done?" he asked, far more adrift than aggrieved.
"Removed the curse, dear," said Baethira. "Regard the mirror, if you will."
The face in the mirror was his, but... transformed. Made true. He was a true elf, like Sam and Shera and Darvinin, like Ruin and Baethira herself. He reached up awkwardly, touched his chin, and watched his reflection do the same. "Is this... me?"
"It is," Baethira said. "The... let's call it a curse, though thaumaturgically speaking it's a bit more complicated than that... the curse gives you a halfling's body." She held out the ring. "And the curse is now yours to command. Place the ring back upon your finger, and you will return to a halfling's body. Useful, if you want to keep your true identity a secret."
Leander took the ring and regarded it. It was an odd mix, copper and at least two sorts of gold, wide and traced in pastoral reliefs. Then, with some trepidation, he slid it back onto his finger... and watched in the mirror as his body shrank and transformed, taking his clothes along with it. With considerably more trepidation, he pulled the ring back off... and became himself again.
The sense of relief that swept through him was overwhelming. "This is... this is... I don't know how to thank you."
"Unless their spies are considerably better than I think possible," said Baethira, "the cult won't know of your true nature. You can use that to build a second identity, unknown and unsuspected. The ring was hidden from you; it is still hidden from everyone except us. If you wish to thank me, use that in your plans to learn more of them."
I'll use it for a lot more than that... Still, Baethira was right. And if they were to leave the house as a group, it was better as he left it looking the same way that he'd arrived: as a halfling. He and his friends knew better; he'd always known better, and now he could show them. "Consider it done," he said.