Declarations Of Allegiance, by Charles Matthias

Story name: Declarations of Allegiance
Author: Charles Matthias

Date: Early June (7 days)
Location: Metamor Keep, Glen Avery, Southeastern Dragon Mountains

Overview

Charles and Misha defend the town of Glen Avery from an army led by Baron Calephas. Charles discovers Garigan has the gift of Sondecki, and invites him to become his pupil.

Summary

Phil informs Charles and Misha that an army of Nasoj's has entered the ravines northwest of the Keep. With such defenses, a direct battle would be costly. Therefore, he asks the two of them to go to a nearby town called Avery's Glen and make a show of securing its defenses. If the scouts become aware that Metamor knows of its attack, it might be enough to call it back. The Lutins know Misha and fear him, while the leader of the army, Baron Calephas, will remember Matthias from an earlier expedition.

The two of them ride off, and Misha tells Matthias a bit about Glen Avery. As they enter the province, they are stopped by the guards Angus and Shelley, who escort them to Lord Avery's hut. After a merry talk over tea, they make plans for the defenses. After Lord Avery's wife Angela arrives and introduces herself, Misha and Charles leave to stay at Angus's den.

The next day, they conspicuously inspect the troops with Angus; a ferret guard named Garigan testily leaves to rejoin the defenses. A hedgehog named Mrs. Levins then visits the troops with a delicious blackberry pie, to their delight. Charles and Misha then inspect the defenses around the city's perimeter.

Near the end of the day, Garigan takes a Lutin scout captive, and Angus and Shelley take him to a prison tree. Charles decides that the best way to force him to talk will be to tantalize him with the smell of one of Mrs. Levins's pies. When Angus describes how Garigan captured the Lutin, Misha is surprised by Garigan's oddly aggressive behavior. Burris arrives and creates an opening in the tree to slip the warm pie in, and seals it back up.

Lord Avery invites Matthias and Misha to dinner that evening. As they discuss how to best remain visible, the two Avery children chase each other home. Charles is astonished to learn that children born to two people with the same curse can inherit it. The children challenge him to a tree-climbing contest, and Charles nearly accepts, but Angela stops from racing until tomorrow morning.

The next day, Charles loses his race to the Avery kids, tearing his tunic in the process. He and Misha prepare a picnic lunch and enjoy it in front of the Lutin, who confesses that he was scouting for Baron Calephas, who will destroy Glen Avery once his army arrives. They look for Lord Avery in Lars's brewery, and find him accompanied by Lance from the Metamor timber crews, who has arrived as backup to rebuild Glen Avery's defenses. With Angus and Garigan, they discuss the Lutin's info. Misha and Charles decide to scout the area themselves.

On the morning of the fourth day, Charles and Misha hike further into the mountains, shifted into their animal forms and following the scent of Lutins. In the center of the ravine, they find the Lutins setting up camp, with an astonishing number of catapults under construction. Misha notices there are no cookpots, and wonders how they will rely on supply lines for so long. He also suspects something on the plateaus overlooking the valley, but cannot get a good look. They leave, although Matthias is delayed when he is briefly captured by a Lutin.

That afternoon, Charles's friends encourage him to duel against Angus, who confidently defeats him. Garigan challenges him next, slicing Charles's staff in two. Charles defeats him by suddenly grabbing his arms and pushing his weapon backwards. Avery's kids try to challenge Charles, but Misha and Lord Avery interrupt. Misha has sent Phil a letter asking for reinforcements to destroy the catapults, and a dragon to scout the plateaus.

The next day, Charles visits the tailor's to mend his tunic. He is surprised that the tailor Walter is a gendermorph who lives with Mrs. Levins. She demands two gold for repairing the tunic, as the thread she needs is in short supply. Charles grumbles and hands it over; he does not like her sour attitude. He examines her workshop and notices a large rug being made in her loom, with a depiction of the Battle of the Three Gates. Despite her irritation, he asks about the battle, and she says most of Glen Avery was defending the gate that was targeted with the animal curse; she herself had been away helping the wounded. Softly, she admits that Mrs Levins was her wife, and that her two children had been turned into infants and killed in battle.

Reinforcements from Phil march conspicuously into town that afternoon, led by Captain Nyman. They also bring the smallest dragon at the Keep, Gornul, kept under canvas. As he scouts the plateau, Charles and Misha watch from a distant treetop, although the Avery boys are better spotters than them. To their horror, Gornul is fired upon, but he manages to return to camp and send an image of Calepha's enemy positions.

While Burris heals Gornul, the leaders discuss the new information. The catapults were a distraction all along; Calephas intended to fire upon them if they were attacked. Charles, with Garigan and Lord Avery, decides to lead a small party of their smallest animal morphs to sneak in through the supply wagons and attack the bulk of the army on Mount Nuln, concentrating on Baron Calephas himself. Misha and Angus will lead a distraction force with two aims: to send the rams through camp, and convince the Lutins that they are greatly outnumbered. Nyman will lead another force around the mountain to attack its far side, while Tathom will stay behind to defend Glen Avery. They decide to attack that night.

Charles has an odd feeling about the positioning of the catapults as his party boards the supply wagon. At the top, he finds that Calephas has added more troops to his camp. They listen to Calephas, telling his captain Ignacy about what the Keepers know, and giving him an emergency pellet. Misha sends the flock of rams in, and Charles and Avery sneak in and capture Calephas in his tent. The other keepers assault the camp, and Angus captures Calephas's second-in-command Captain Ignacy. The catapults fire upon the cliffs, and in the confusion, Calephas escapes and takes his pellet, turning into a bird and flying off.

After destroying the enemy camp, the Glen Avery army returns home with no deaths and only a few injuries. Misha and Charles are welcomed as heroes: Walter gives their tunics back with the seal of Glen Avery beside the seal of Metamor Keep, and Lars gives free drinks on the house. The next day, in the late morning, Charles excuses himself and talks to Garigan, teaching him to seal away the anger with a symbol of his choosing. Garigan picks a sword symbol, which confirms to Charles that Garigan has the power of the Sondeck, and Charles offers to take him on as a pupil. Garigan does not accept immediately; he leaves to think it over.

Misha, Charles, Gornul, and their prisoners ride back to Metamor Keep. Charles is surprised to see that a new bedroom has been added to his chambers, fitted with yellow clothes and a Sondeki robe designed for a mustelid. He hurries to a promenade and sees Garigan riding to the Keep. Kimberly surprises him, and Matthias offers to introduce her to his new friend Garigan.

Places

  • Glen Avery: Before the curse, it was a small village along the northern borders of Metamor. It was heavily destroyed during the siege of Metamor. After the battle, the villagers rebuilt their village within the wide trees themselves for protection. The city is surrounded by crumbling city walls and abandoned watchtowers; most of the defenses consist of scouts set in the trees, armed with bows and slings. Some of the buildings are huts set at ground level; others are built up in the branches. Small clearings allow for gardens and livestock. Many of the residents are animal morphs and have adapted to their animal lifestyles. There are a few gendermorph residents, but no age regressed.
    • The road from the Keep to Glen Avery is small but well-traveled, although at times it is overgrown with vines and weeds. At a bridge over a brook, there is a signpost with several old carvings, the most legible of which commemorates the men of Avery who fought and died against Nasoj. The road continues through the woods and up through a few hills to get to the main city itself.
    • Lord Avery's house: As a squirrel morph, Lord Brian Avery has built his residence in the highest set of branches of the Glen. Brian and his family of squirrels normally climb the tree to enter; visitors and non-climbing folk can use a rope ladder dropped from above. There is no roof to the building, and only a few lanterns provide light. Several small windows provide useful slits for archers; larger windows are built to fold inwards, smoothly matching the wood walls. The walls and furniture are molded from the tree itself, made with Burris's help.
    • Mrs. Levin's house is a brown thatch hut between two trees. The front room is dominated by Mrs. Levins's kitchen; the back room is occupied by Walter the tailor. Both have filled their respective rooms with tools of their trades: Mrs. Levins with pots, pans, and a large stove; Walter with a loom, workbenches with spools of cloth, and rugs in progress.
    • Lars's brewery is placed inside a cave along the borders of Glen Avery. The caves are extensive, but locals only use the first levels.
    • The lake adjacent to Glen Avery is fed by a mountain stream, and in turn empties out into a tributary of the Metamor River.
  • Dragon Mountains: The western half of the Great Barrier Range. There are several paths leading into and out of the mountains, but they are difficult to navigate.
    • Mount Nuln: One of the Dragon Mountains. It has a large plateau capable of holding a massive army. Baron Calephas holds most of his army there.
    • Mount Kalegris: The smaller of the two mountains, with only a token force defending it.

Main characters:

  • Charles Matthias: A headmaster of the Writer's Guild, currently lending his services as a scout. This is Charles's first time visiting Glen Avery. He makes several friends there, and invites Garigan back to the Keep to learn the ways of the Sondeckis.
  • Misha Brightleaf: A Long Scout, feared by the Lutins. He has visited Glen Avery often and knows several of the townsfolk. He is an especially good friend to Lars and has visited his bar many times. The battle at Mount Nuln is the first battle he can remember not bringing his axe Whisper.

Supporting:

  • Phil: The Keep head of intelligence. He manages the operation from the Keep, providing reinforcements when asked.
  • Angus: A guard of Glen Avery, a badger morph, and a good friend of Misha. He enjoys woodcarving.
  • Brian Avery: Lord of Glen Avery. He lives in the highest hut of Glen Avery, built out of the pine itself. His father was killed in an invasion of Nasoj; since then, he has chosen to be as open to the Glen as he can, forgoing the usual trappings of nobility.
  • Angela Avery: Brian Avery's wife.
  • Christopher Avery & Darien Avery: Brian and Angela's two children. They are both around 3 and 5, and are both squirrel morphs, due to a unique feature of the curse.
  • Garigan: One of Glen Avery's best guards, a tall slender ferret morph. Unknown to him, he has the gift of the Sondeckis, as shown by an unconscious rage building within him. Matthias recognizes this, and invites him to the Keep in order to train him.
  • Gornul: A small telepathic dragonette.
  • Calephas: Baron of Aradarb. He is a known pedaster, sexually preying on boys. He reveals that he visisted Metamor Keep when he was younger, and was impressed by the spirit of the people. He escapes the battle by drinking a potion that turns him into a bird.

Minor characters:

  • Shelley/Shelly: A guard of Glen Avery, a child morph.
  • Mrs. Levins: An elderly hedgehog morph who bakes delicious pies.
  • Burris: A mage of Glen Avery and a woodpecker morph. He specializes in woodworking magic, and constructed many of the houses that are built from the trees themselves. He also acts as a healer.
  • Lars: The brewer of Glen Avery, a black bear morph.
  • Lance: A member of the Keep lumber crews, and a moose morph. He arrives first at the Glen to provide backup.
  • Walter Levins: The tailor of Glen Avery, a female gendermorph. She began learning to tailor at the age of ten. She has been married to Mrs. Levins for 30 years. She witnessed the Battle of the Three Gates, and lost her two twin children in the fighting after they turned into infants. She has grown cold and irritable from her loss.
  • Captain Nyman: Leader of the reserves from Metamor Keep, a mamalute morph. He has a nasty scar along his jowls.
  • Captain Ignacy: A captain of Calephas's forces. Like the rest of his troops, he is dressed in a chain hauberk. He is glad to be working for Nasoj, as he is given wealth and women. He was at the Battle of the Three Gates, on Nasoj's side. At the end, he is captured by Glen Avery.

Cameo:

  • Rupert: Phil's bodyguard, a gorilla morph.
  • Michael: A member of the Keep lumber crews, and a beaver morph.
  • Lindsey: A member of the Keep lumber crews, a male gendermorph.
  • Chief Tathom: Head of the Keep lumber crews. He ordered several of his crew to assist with Glen Avery's preparations.
  • Kimberly: Matthias's beloved. She waits at Metamor Keep for Matthias at the end.

Important mention:

  • Nasoj: The evil mage of the Northlands, under whom Baron Calephas serves.
  • Robern Barnhardt: A lord who owns land just south of Glen Avery. Despite his prosperity, he is unwilling to lend men to help Glen Avery's economy.

Referenced:

Story Connections

Points of interest

  • This is the first appearance of Glen Avery, and several Glen Avery citizens: Brian, Angela, Christopher, and Darien Avery; Garigan, Angus, Shelly, Lars, Mrs Levins, Walter Levins, and Burris.
  • This is the first time that natural-born children are revealed to be able to inherit the curse of their parents.
  • The seal of Glen Avery is a large tree between two mountains.
  • Charles gets five Gold Crowns a month for working at the Writer's Guild; it's enough to pay for most things.
  • The Lutins here have small tusks and red eyes.
  • Walter calls the animal gate the "second gate"; usually it is referred to as the third gate.
  • Besides Garigan and Lord Avery, Charles leads a skunk, another musteline and a siamese cat.
  • Calephas's camp is outside the borders of the curse.
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