Hoof and Claw, by Jon Sleeper

Story name: Hoof and Claw
Author: Jon Sleeper
Date: Mid autumn, 705 CR

Overview

Jonathan discovers an ancient necklace that can transform him into a raptor, but he doesn't know how to transform back.

Summary

Smithson and Jonathan are taking a break from translating the Keystone, going outside for the first time. While exploring a canyon, Jonathan trips over a skull belonging to the Teneds. They excitedly unearth it, along with neck vertebrae and a jeweled necklace. Lacking the time for a proper excavation before winter, they set up anti-weathering spells over the site.

The pendant is cleaned by Pascal, who warns Smithson about dormant magic inside. As Smithson shows it to him, Jonathan notices that the green gem has turned red, and that the clasp has become undone.

Late one night, Jonathan checks on the artifacts, wondering what the purpose of the necklace is. He tries it on, closing the clasp, and the gem turns green. His body immediately begins a transformation into a kind of lizard. He falls over and knocks himself out. When he awakens, he has been tied up by Jack, Brian, Fox Cutter, and Smithson, who are frightened by his presence. Magus arrives later to place a truth spell on Jon, revealing his identity.

Jonathan wants the necklace off, but only he is warned that it is sealed alchemically, and the only one who can remove it, Pascal, is deep in an experiment and can't be disturbed for a week. Jonathan accidentally tears Smithson's arm, and struggles with his new predatory instincts.

Smithson and Jonathan go to the Mess Hall for food. Copernicus is there, but realizes he is not a normal lizard. Jonathan finds himself devouring the raw meat and getting drowsy afterwards. Neither Copernicus, Saroth, or Bryan can identify him, although Bryan realizes his hips are like a bird's.

At weapons training, Jonathan finds himself eager to fight in close combat. The next morning, he is eager for their patrol into the Giantdowns, and doesn't remember ever being an archer or a deer. As they trek through the woods, Jon has strange reservations against his new instincts, until the image of first waking in the library with forehooves snaps him out. The Lutins attack at that moment, and after some hesitation, his hunting instincts quickly take out the shocked Lutins.

Though thrilled by battle, Jonathan now wishes his old form back. As the days pass, Smithson suggests that the reason no Tened weapons have been found was not perhaps that they were a peaceful society, but because the transformation was their battle form.

At the end of the week, Pascal simply turns the gem setting, which transforms him back and forth from raptor to deer. But she can't find any way to take it off. Jonathan accepts it as another weapon against evil.

Characters

Main Characters:

  • Jonathan: A quartermaster and amateur artifact collector.

Supporting:

  • Smithson: Jon's mentor and friend. He is a goat morph in his mid-sixties.
  • Jack DeMule: The Keep armourer. He ties up Jon in his new form, and keeps him
  • Pascal: The Keep alchemist. At the start of the story, she is too busy with an experiment to help Jon. She easily solves the problem in the end.

Cameo:

  • Brian Coe: The Keep medic. He is with Jack and Smithson when Jon awakens.
  • Magus: The Keep wizard. He is able to verify Jon's identity with a truth spell.
  • Copernicus: A lizard morph. He is unable to identify Jon's form, and suggests visiting Saroth or Cerulean.
  • Saroth: A dragon morph. He is also unable to identify Jon's new form.
  • Bryan: A cobra morph and scout leader.
  • Wanderer: A wolf morph.
  • Kwanzaa: A shrew morph who is very talented with a saber.
  • Bender: A wolf morph and archer. He nearly gets overwhelmed by Lutins, and gets several wounds in him.
  • Moorly: A small equine morph and archer.

Mentioned:

  • Donnie: Bartender of the Deaf Mule.
  • Cerulean: A natural-born dragon.

Points of Interest

  • Jonathan explains more of his backstory:
    • When he was 5, his parents were taking a business trip to the Sathmore Empire when their ship sank in a freak squall on the Sea of Stars; Smithson was the family friend watching over him, who became his adoptive father.
  • This is the first mention of the Sea of Stars or the Sathmore Empire on the archive.
    • They first appeared in Malisa's unfinished story Distant Voices, not on the archive.
  • Jonathan can still speak in raptor form, but in a tenor voice.
  • The stairs to Saroth's tower are on the outside of the tower.
  • Two of the five soldiers who go on patrol with Jon are Bryan and Jack. The other three are a sabre-wielding shrew named Kwanzaa, a wolf archer named Bender, and a small horse archer named Moorly.
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