Keeping The Lamp Lit, by Phil Geusz and Charles Matthias

Story name: Keeping the Lamp Lit
Authors: Phil Geusz and Charles Matthias
Publication date: September 1998

Date: April to May 706 CR (see Timeline of Events)
Locations: Metamor Keep, Lorland, Ellcaran, the Sea of Stars, the Giantdowns (Brathas, the river Arabas, Aradarb), Whales

Summary

In the immediate aftermath of Attacking Cossack, Kimberly rushes to Phil's room and tearfully tells him what has happened. Being a close friend of the Duke, Phil invites the Duke to dinner and tells him of Kimberly's mistreatment, as well as his belief that Matthias was mentally unwell, and thus not wholly responsible. He receives Thomas's permission to visit the despondent Matthias in the dungeons, where he tells him about the necessity of taking violent action for the good of a nation. Upon hearing that Phil was the one who had recommended him for patrol duty, Matthias refuses to talk to him any further, and Phil decides to send for Charles's good friend Father Hough.

The next day, Phil learns from a correspondence in the Northlands that Nasoj has discovered an amulet that can transform fields of insects into a mindless Lutin army. He and Thomas agree it must be destroyed, and wish that the "Rat of Might" previously discussed in Winds of Destiny were able to assist. After they suddenly remember Matthias's mighty attack in the throne room, Phil decides to visit Matthias again.

As this is happening, Loriod checks out every book on the Southlands from the Keep library, and arranges an "accident" where an exposed pyrock burns down his carriage while he visits Matthias. Using runes to hide their discussion, he reveals that his uncle was a Sondecki, and he knows that Matthias used a Sondeck technique when he attacked the Duke. Knowing that the Sondeckis will kill anyone who reveals their existence, he forces Matthias to agree to several demands, such as to disband the Gnawer's Support Group, to always address him as Lord, to stop addressing Kimberly as Lady, and to relocate to his lands upon release from patrol duty. Phil arrives just as Loriod departs, hoping that Charles will trust him and the Duke and tell him everything. Matthias is angered at Phil's presumptuousness, that he needs his secrecy as much as Phil needs his, revealing his awareness of Phil's espionage activities. He agrees to reveal some, but not all, of his abilities and his past, as he traces certain symbols on the ground. When Charles finishes, Phil tells him about the prophecy of Mad Felix and his role as "the Rat of Might", and suggests that he join a non-violent mission to destroy the amulet as a means of fulfilling his proscribed service to the Duke. Phil gives Roscoe permission to provide Matthias with anything he requests, and not to tell anyone that he is doing so.

Phil gives Thomas the good news, and dispatches a summons to a ship captain in Menth. Phil then turns his attention to the arson of Loriod's carriage. After his mage friend Wessex determines that magic caused the fire, Phil visits Loriod in his throne room, playing dumb to drop Loriod's defenses. He notices Loriod stiffen when he shows an interest in his goldfish aquarium. Loriod entertains Phil with stories of his fish, and sends him off with two crates of fresh carrots. Next, Phil visits Pascal to learn about the symbols Matthias was drawing; she reveals that one was a silence spell, but the other is a more complex rune, and recommends asking Wessex, who taught her. Phil instead decides to consult the library, where he learns that every book on the Southlands and its magic was borrowed by Loriod and burned in the fire.

The next morning, Phil wakes up feral, as happens sometimes; he awakens the next morning to hear that Captain Ptomamus has arrived from Menth. Meanwhile, Charles has spent the past days receiving visits from other Keepers, and thinking about the prophecy, his pacifism, and his duty to the Keep. Seeing a lamp on the wall, he reflects that not keeping the lamp lit through negligence is the same as snuffing it directly. Realizing that his pact of non-violence could allow violence to happen to his loved ones, he desperately begs God to release him from his vow. Roscoe arrives soon after, with a message from Phil that he is needed immediately and is free to go.

Phil, Charles, and Ptomamus collaborate on the details of the mission: Matthias will be in feral morph the whole way — with Ptomamus under the impression that Charles's current anthro form is temporary — carrying a magical construct designed to neutralize the amulet upon contact. Should it fail, Charles will need to escape with the amulet and ensure it not fall into enemy hands again. The whole journey will take a month round trip; he is given an evening to say goodbye, and to attend the Gnawer's Support Group meeting that night.

As all of this is happening, Loriod is determined to keep his involvement with the Sondeckis a secret. Having wiped Macaban's memory of the missing pyrock, he focuses on a plan to take care of Phil and Hough, whom he learns is paying a visit to Matthias. Hough briefly meets with Ptomamus on the road, who is carrying Matthias in his pocket, before he is intercepted by Loriod's cronies. Loriod has him chained in a guest room, and sees that everyone involved has their memory wiped of kidnapping him. He visits Hough and asks what he knows of Matthias, but Hough refuses to answer. Loriod taunts him by describing the effects of the curse, learning that Hough fears becoming a woman most of all. He leaves and consults an unholy censor, where he meets three robed figures. They are disappointed that Hough is now involved and that Loriod is abusing his mind-wiping power, but they concede to his methods, and warn him to be wary of Phil.

Phil's investigation of Loriod

Phil briefly puts his investigation on hold to select an apprentice to the Fleet Navy of Whales. Despite tradition, he finds the perfect candidate in a man from Metamor Valley, on Loriod's estate. He visits the man's parents, Josephina and Barney, and is astonished by their living conditions. Barney tells Phil about his job as Loriod's fish keeper, revealing that Loriod's goldfish have been bloating due to a sudden drop in water temperature. Barney does not understand why Macaban showed such concern over a missing red rock; Phil realizes its significance immediately. He silently gestures to Josephina to begin packing, and provides them with 20 gold, the signed and approved application for their son, and safe passage for Whales.

The next morning, Phil is alarmed that he has gone feral while awake, so soon after his last episode. After spending daily exercise with Thomas, he tells him about these episodes, and about everything he has learned regarding Matthias and Loriod. He advises him not to take action until he has found solid proof. Thomas sends him Wessex in the afternoon, who reveals that the X rune is able to spy on anyone who ever enters the space where it was used. Phil orders him to search everywhere in the Keep for this rune, and to find a counterspell as soon as possible. Another bout of rabbithood comes upon him; this time, it does not lift.

Meanwhile, Hough has refused to tell Loriod anything, and Loriod continues to deprive him of food, water, or comfort, leaving him tied to the bed in his own filth. During another session, he notices the ropes getting looser. Believing that the female curse is taking effect, Loriod orders his guards to turn him over and tighten the bonds. As he fondles the naked Hough, Loriod tells him that it was by forcing his former lady-in-waiting into sex that he was able to change her into a man. In order to protect his secret, he poisoned her. Hough cries in pain as Loriod rapes him.

Thomas puts all domestic business on hold, and assigns every mage and healer to curing Phil; the days pass, however, and no cure comes. A minor breakthrough comes when Pascal compares Phil's droppings with normal Keepers', showing stronger residues of magic. They conclude that Phil must be poisoned somehow, and Thomas changes Phil's diet to his own stash of oats. Phil's condition still does not improve. Finally, Thalberg tells him of an incident he experienced while visiting Loriod, who wanted a replacement for his fish keeper. Loriod suddenly had an angry outburst about Phil, and when Thalberg reached for some eggs on a tray, Loriod mistakenly assumed he was reaching for the carrots and shouted at him.

Thomas sends Rupert to investigate Loriod's castle. As a bodyguard and trained marine, he is disgusted by Loriod's shoddy security. Sneaking through the hallways to the room directly over the throne room, he opens a hole below and takes some carrots from a tray. Curious about what is behind the two doors from their earlier visit, he uses a bag of anti-magical powder to temporarily disable the more powerful door. Inside, he finds a censor, sending out waves of evil magic. For a moment, images of ruling Whales try to tempt him, but he furiously shuts them out and empties nearly the entire bag on the censor. When he leaves, he hears a crash, and finds Macaban having fallen through the hole. Quickly, he uses a potion on Macaban that renders him completely obedient. Loriod storms out to see what is delaying his servant; Rupert knocks him out with his small sandbag club. Rupert investigates the room beyond the second door, using Macaban's presence to bypass the guards. He is shocked to find a youth lying in his own filth, crying for water. The guards raise an alarm, and Rupert quickly puts the child into a large crate and carries him away, knocking out guards along the way. In the courtyard, Rupert sends a signal flare, and from outside, Thomas orders the gates opened at once.

Wessex is aghast at the number of spells on Macaban, which will take a few weeks to dispel. The carrots are found to produce slight magic from Pascal's experiment, but nothing else. He finds nothing magical at all about the censer, prompting Rupert to demonstrate the anti-magic powder, and its impermanence. Wessex immediately takes the censer to an isolation chamber, surrounding it with protection spells. The censer briefly flickers with power, but dies away. Wessex dismisses it, and suddenly insults his assistant Dorson's incompetence before storming off. Dorson, noticing "errors" in the chalk wards, "corrects" them, and decides to light the now-harmless censer. A thick black smoke emerges from the candle, the wards disappear and change into circles of power, and a black-robed figure steps through the smoke. He snaps Dorson's neck and begins extinguishing the lights surrounding the censer. Before he gets to the last one, Wessex reappears at the door in shock. He screams and charges the man, but the censer distracts him with a mental assault. There is a sudden tearing of the world around him, and when Wessex comes to, the man and the censer are gone, with a hole to the underworld remaining. Quickly, Wessex relights the torches, dumps his powders into the hole and crafts new wards on the floor. As something demonic begins to emerge from the underworld, Wessex pulls Dorson outside and triggers the wards, sealing off the room forever from the Keep's geometry.

Some time later, Misha discovers a rune on some scrap wood in the kitchen woodpiles; it clearly depicts a rabbit with a crown over its head beside a magnifying glass. It smells faintly of carrots, and the only carrot crop that has come in this year was from Loriod's estate. Pascal presents this to Thomas; satisfied with this evidence, Thomas calls for a formal Counsel of War with the other lords. They are hesitant about attacking Loriod, but when Thomas delivers his account, and Father Hough, nurtured back to strength by Lady Kimberly's care, shares the story of his rape, the lords elect for battle.

Rupert assaults the castle first, melting all the weapons on the wall together with simple runes. After finishing his task, he rampages through the castle, knocking out guards as the Metamor army sieges the gates. Rupert rushes through the halls, not even noticing the hole he made before until he falls through into the throne room. He drags himself out of sight and passes out, as Loriod rushes through to his censer room. He finds the man in black there instead, who directs him to a circle of patterns on the floor. Loriod moves to them and activates them; to his horror, they trap him and drain him of his life. The man calmly blames him for squandering his opportunities, and that he will clean up this mess to avoid discovery. Loriod collapses to a lifeless husk as the circle changes into a hole to the underworld. Wessex appears in the doorway, recognizing the man in black immediately. Before he can escape, Wessex grabs the spell links and immobilizes him, demanding to know his name. The man refuses and tries to break free; Wessex realizes that, aside from Nasoj and a mentor of his, this man is the most powerful he's ever faced. As the man's leg snaps and blood bursts from his body, the man gives his name: Zagrosek. He bursts free and triggers the last spell, a massive explosion. Wessex tumbles backwards and tosses defensive spells behind him, collapsing at the foot of the stairs, the tower blown to pieces.

Matthias's mission in the North

Upon boarding the Arrow, Ptomamus leaves Charles in his cabin with some bread and cheese. Charles digs out a hole underneath the captain's bookshelf and hides his parcel there, but the ship's coxswain Magnus notices the bite marks in the food and soon finds Charles's rat-hole. He prepares to set some traps, but Ptomamus re-enters and forbids him from setting traps in his cabin, commenting aloud that no wise rat would appear with Magnus around, and Charles wisely makes himself scarce.

A few days later, the Arrow stops at Brathas for supplies. The ship then continues along the coast and through the Arabas river to Arabarb, briefly attacked once by giants. Charles spends most of the time messing with the other ship's rats, listening to the crew, or being lost in thought. Upon arrival, the captain manages to convince the Baron Calephas about the benefits of opening trade with Whales. While Ptomamus heads to the fortress with Calephas, Charles waits until nightfall to sneak into the fortress and use the bauble on the amulet. He sneaks into the treasury through the rafters, shifting into his anthro form from above and behind the guards who are all facing away from the amulet. To his horror, the bauble fails to deactivate the amulet, so he takes the amulet. The slight sound alerts the guards, whom Charles quickly and silently subdue. Shifting back to a rat, he alerts Ptomamus and scurries back to the Arrow, taking greater care to hide himself with an amulet around his neck.

With the amulet aboard the Arrow, Ptomamus alerts his mage Aramaes, and he puts the Lutin watchmen to sleep as the sailors row away from the dock. Unfortunately, the enemy can follow the amulet's power, and it is too powerful to suppress. The best that Aramaes can do is to disperse it, and provide only a general indicator of where it is. A Lutin ship led by Sergeant Cajudy pursues them, firing flaming arrows at them, and Ptomamus maneuvers the ship under a cliffside so that Aramaes can trigger a rockslide on them.

The next evening, Calephas's warships have finally caught up, and his mages tear apart the Arrow. The crew leaps overboard and swims for shore; after seeing Ptomamus and Aramaes are safe aground, Charles runs into the woods with the amulet. Several hours later, he rests in an abandoned squirrel nest, and continues the next day into the rugged foothills of the Dragon Mountains. He evades one band of Lutins by jumping off a steep ledge, but after more hours of running, another band led by Cajudy finally pins him down. He uses his Longfugos technique to kill Cajudy and his mage, and knock several Lutins to the ground. After one final sprint, Charles collapses in exhaustion in front of a large blue dragon.

Charles awakes, tightly tied to the back of the dragon. Fearing that he has been captured by Nasoj, he breaks the bonds and tumbles into the air. The dragon tries to catch him, but Charles shoves himself away. Breaking through the cloud cover, Charles sees open ocean, and realizes that he is not being taken northward after all. He closes his eyes and waits for death, but the dragon, named Heraclitus, catches him and reprimands him. He was sent from Whales to rescue Charles, and is taking him to the Isle of Whales.

Conclusion

The Keep celebrates its victory over Loriod, but Phil is still cursed, in spite of Wessex's attempts. Kimberly gives Thomas the idea to try strengthening the Keep's own counter-curse to restore his humanity. Wessex attempts it the following evening, and even manages to bring Phil's humanity back, before he bursts into flames, as Phil once predicted would happen. Unfortunately, this counter-curse requires constant energy; even for another Keeper, it would be impossible to make it permanent. Restoring him back to his lapine state, Wessex breaks him out of trance, and Phil flops to the table, and begins twitching uncontrollably. Wessex panics and starts another spell as Thomas holds him, but then Phil regains his lucidity, joking about receiving a kiss.

After a few days in his castle, Charles, dressed in a fine green doublet, meets with King Tenomides, where he shares the story of his adventure. The next day, Heraclitus returns him to the Keep, arriving just after Phil has been cured. He embraces Kimberly and hands the amulet to Wessex. Charles and Thomas exchange brief accounts about their adventures; Charles is glad to hear that his blackmailer Loriod is dead, and that Hough had not been cursed as a woman. He humbly asks Thomas to forgive him for his transgressions, and Thomas gladly does, as they are the prophetic trio.

Some time later, Phil is invited to a picnic with Thomas, Rupert, and Charles. They travel to a hill overlooking Loriod's castle, and Thomas informs Phil that Loriod left no heirs, and that Thalberg and Macaban are scrambling to manage things. Phil would prefer that the peasants elect a leader of their own, but Thomas knows the other nobles would not accept it. He asks Phil to accept the position as leader; he will allow Macaban to continue managing the fiefdom, knowing he will be well-suited once he fully recovers. To further his argument, Charles and Rupert implore him to accept, as do the surprise guests of Josephina and Barney; Thomas even presents a letter from Tenomides urging him to accept. Finally Phil concedes, but he shall be known as Protector, Macaban as Steward, and the fiefdom be referred to only as Lorland. The four guests dance as Thomas signals the castle, dropping a large banner decorated with a carrot from the tower, much to Phil's embarrassment.

Timeline of Events:

The following is an unofficial day-by-day account of the story. Italized events happen outside of this story. Some of the dates, especially in May, are approximate.

  • April 5: Easter Sunday.1
  • April 7: In Admissions and Applications, Michael finds that Charles has left in Fetish.2
  • April 9: In Arduous Tasks, Michael gains a job.3
  • April 10: The events of Colors begin.4
  • April 12: The events of Attacking Cossack take place.5 Phil has dinner with Thomas and convinces him to pay Charles a visit. He sends a letter to Hough afterwards.
  • April 13: Phil learns of Nasoj's amulet; Loriod burns down his carriage and blackmails Charles; Phil shares the prophecy with Charles, and sends a letter to Ptomamus; Kimberly visits Charles.
  • April 14: Phil visits Wessex, Pascal, Loriod, and Cutter. He dines with Thomas and sleeps soundly. Michael visits Charles in Awake.
  • April 15: Phil wakes up feral.
  • April 16: Phil recovers from being feral. Ptomamus arrives in Metamor; Charles is released from prison, and meets with Ptomamus and Phil.
  • April 17: The Gnawer's Support Group meets. Michael takes a potion and visits the Support Group with Pascal.
  • April 18: Charles leaves with Ptomamus and boards the Arrow; Magnus discovers evidence of Charles. While en route to Metamor, Hough is captured.
  • April 19: Phil reviews applications for Journeyman, and visits the candidate's family; he gives them passage to Whales.
  • April 20: Phil warns Thomas about his curse and warns Wessex about runes; Phil becomes feral, Thomas demands a cure.
  • April 21: The Arrow arrives in Brathas. Thalberg visits Loriod.
  • April 24: Pascal shows her experiment to Thomas.6
  • April 26: Thalberg tells Thomas about the outburst. The Arrow arrives at the mouth of the river Arabas.
  • April 27: Kimberly cleans Dr Channing's tower.
  • April 28: Rupert storms Loriod's castle. Dorson is killed; Wessex seals the isolation room.
  • April 30: Dr Channing holds a poetry contest "at month's end" that Michael and Pascal crash in Colors7.
  • May 1: The Arrow arrives in Arabarb. Charles steals the amulet.
  • May 2: The Arrow is capsized. The child Hough is tended to and remembers his name.
  • May 3: Charles is found by Heraclitus, and flies him to Whales. Misha and Caroline discover a rune in the kitchens.
  • May 5-7: Charles arrives in Whales, and entertains the King of Whales.
  • May 8: Thomas calls the lords to a council of war. Their army assaults Loriod's castle that evening; Loriod is killed.
  • May 9: Wessex manages to cure Phil; Charles arrives and apologizes to Thomas.
  • Sometime later, Oren arrives in Metamor Keep.
  • Later, but no more than a month later, Thomas appoints Phil as Protector of Lorland.

Locations:

  • Quaroom: A port city famous for its endless gold mines and exports, and its constant political strife. During one particular revolution, the people decapitated the heads of their leaders and their royal families, and leave them on poles in the harbor. Phil was forced to put them down with Greek fire.
  • Menth: A local port city to Metamor Keep. As part of their alliance to Metamor Keep, a courier vessel for Whales is always positioned there.
  • Brathas: A city on a western peninsula, settled on a small plain between the mountains and the coast. It is a week's journey south of the mouth of the Arabas river. It is the northernmost free port on the continent, outside of Nasoj's domain.
  • Arabas River: A wide and deep river in the Giantdowns. It is surrounded by cliffs and forests, at least as far as Arabarb, 2 days inland.
  • Arabarb: A city on the south side of the River Arabas. It was once a beautiful city, but under Nasoj's rule it has become foul-smelling and wretched. Lutins live in the outskirts of the city; the stronghold in the center is populated by humans only. Occasionally, the screams of boys raped by Calephas can be heard throughout town. Although the city walls are secure, parts of it have fallen into decay. The city itself lies a five-minute walk from the port along the river. Overlooking the port on the north bank is a Lutin camp on a cliff.
    • The Arabarb stronghold is at least three floors tall. The lower two floors are heavily defended, with guards posted around the foyer. Also on these floors, there is a neatly-kept stable, a decent-sized library, and several rooms for servants. The treasury, where the amulet is kept, is a hexagonal room with a single door. There is a dais in the center, which at the moment contains the amulet. The council room, on the opposite side of the building, is where Calephas and Ptomamus make their negotiations.
  • Ellcaran: Home of Father Hough and Lothar.
  • Lorland: Loriod's fiefdom within Metamor Valley. Its farmlands are the richest in the valley, feeding most of the citizens of Metamor. After Loriod's death, the fiefdom is given to Phil to rule, and Macaban to supervise.
  • Pyridian Kingdoms: Famous for their hand woven rugs.
  • Sathmore Empire: A frequent trading partner with Metamor.
  • Pyralian Kingdoms: An occasional trading partner with Metamor.

Characters

Main Characters:

  • Charles Matthias: A headmaster of the Writer's Guild, imprisoned for his actions in "Attacking Cossack". Learning that he is to be the Rat of Might of legend, he forgoes his vow of pacifism, though he asks that he still be kept to non-violent missions as much as possible.
  • Phil: A headmaster of the Writer's Guild, spymaster for the Keep, prince of Whales, and close friend of both Matthias and Duke Thomas. As a member of Whales's navy, he has commanded 13 ships inspected hundreds. At story's end, he becomes lord and Protector of Lorland.
  • Duke Thomas: The Duke of Metamor Keep. Thanks to Phil, he softens on Matthias's punishment. When Phil goes feral, Thomas devotes himself to finding a cure for Phil, and bringing justice to whoever is responsible.
  • Altera Loriod: A lord of the Metamor Valley, a male gendermorph. He is responsible for the major events that happen around Metamor Keep, particularly involving Phil and Hough. A racist and a sexist, he forces his subjects to remarry and take on new positions that fit their new forms. He believes he has more power than he actually has, and that he is destined for greatness. He has no understanding of art, and his attempts to beautify his manor have made it garish. At the end of the story, he is killed by Zagrosek.
  • Rupert: Phil's bodyguard, a gorilla morph. He was a bodyguard for the King of Whales, until an illness threatened his life. He hoped that the curse of Metamor Keep would repair his body, and it did, albeit with his voice gone. He watches over Phil at every moment, often without Phil knowing it. Rupert has learned everything about the care for rabbits, and holds Phil to a schedule. When Phil is made feral, Rupert leads two assaults on Loriod's manor in revenge.
  • Wessex: A mage specializing in foreign magic, a close friend of Phil, and a child morph stuck at 12 years. He identifies the runes for Phil, and is given care of the censor that is stolen from Loriod's manor. After losing the censor, his isolation chamber, and his own apprentice to a mysterious figure, he shadows Loriod and binds the figure until he can extract the figure's name: Zagrosek. Nasoj's amulet is placed in his possession.
    • He wears a gold talisman in his hat that blocks the pain of a toothache.

Supporting characters:

  • Macaban: Loriod's attendant, a donkey morph. He occupies several roles, such as driving Loriod's carriage, maintaining his household staff, and delivering messages to Loriod. Loriod's mind-control spells have made him stoically accept his his abuses at Loriod's hands. He is knocked out during Rupert's assault and given to Wessex's care. By the end, he is slowly regaining awareness of himself, and angry at Loriod's treatment of him. He is made Steward of Lorland.
  • Francis Hough: An Ecclesian priest of the Holy See from Ellcaran. Although he recently visited Metamor Keep for Easter, he decides to pay a visit to his good friend Matthias. He is captured en route and assaulted and raped by Loriod over several days. The Curse changes him into a child morph. Even after being rescued by Rupert, he is catatonic for several days until he reveals his true identity to Kimberly.
  • Roscoe: The Master of the Dungeon at the Keep, and a cave-scorpion morph. He is forced to stay underground during the day. He is a kind person, though, and yearns for company and gossip.
  • Captain Ptomamus: Captain of the Arrow. He has served it for three years; prior to that, he was first officer aboard the Iros. He is allergic to rats, and normally carries an anti-rat talisman to repel them.
  • Aramaes: The Arrow's mage. He accompanies Ptomamus to the negotiations. He uses his magic to assist in their escape: putting the Lutins to sleep, summoning clouds to darken the night, sending a cliffside down on a ship, and using second sight to look upon the pursuing ships.
  • Krenek Zagrosek: One of the figures summoned by the unholy censer. He is in his late thirties, with a wiry frame and black hair. He wears a black robe with a symbol on his sleeves, a red hand with a white sword in its palm. He goes unidentified until the very end.
    • Also summoned: A man with shoulder-length blond hair, dressed in purple with lightning flashes for insignia. He is tall and muscular.
    • Also summoned: A woman with black hair down to her waist, wearing purple robes with a pointing hand as an insignia. Her eyes are bloodshot.
  • Baron Celaphas: Baron of the city of Aradarb. He appears wearing a plumed helmet and ceremonial plate armor. He has baby-blue eyes and speaks in an embarrassingly high-pitched voice. He had once been a baron of the Midlands, until his molestation of young boys was discovered, and he was exiled to the Northlands. He is fiercely loyal to Nasoj, but also selfish. He foolishly allows the Arrow to dock. He is later seen piloting one of the ships in pursuit.

Minor Characters:

  • Fox Cutter: The head librarian of Metamor Keep. He knows some of Matthias's secrets, but not all. He is heartbroken over the loss of his books.
  • Pascal: The Keep alchemist. She works on the device to neutralize the amulet, and teaches Phil some basics about runes, which she learned a month ago. She goes through hobbies rapidly and is currently into foreign coinage, and she never forgets what she learns. She is later seen at the Gnawer's Meeting with Michael, the first time she's ever attended. Several days later, she uses a catalyst that reveals magic on Phil's droppings, indicating their high magic concentration.
  • Kimberly: Charles's beloved, formerly the servant of a lord from Brathas, a rat morph. Her being called a Lady is one of Loriod's personal grievances. While Charles is gone, she discovers that he is the Rat of Might, and resolves to ask him what it means when he returns. She also becomes Hough's caretaker after he is rescued.
  • Lothar: A young priest of Ellcaran. He is impetuous at times, but devoted to the church. Like many others, he fears the curses of Metamor Keep. Hough has already decided that if he should be relocated to Metamor, Lothar will be appointed as successor to the diocese.
  • Sir Saulius: Matthias still mourns his attack on him the month before. He later gives a toast to Matthias during the Gnawer's Support Meeting.
  • Magnus: The Arrow's coxswain. He is good at his job, and mindful of Ptomamus's allergies. He attempts to set up traps after he discovers Charles, but Ptomamus stops him, to his confusion.
  • Sergeant Cajudy: Head of the guard in Arabarb. He is the first to speak with Ptomamus at the dock of Arabarb. He distrusts them, but fearing a conflict between them and Whales, calls on Calephas. He later heads one of the ships pursuing the Arrow, and finally catches up to Charles on foot. He and his army are killed by Charles's Longfugos technique.
  • Josephina: The mother of Horatio/Horatia, a female gendermorph, and a peasant under Loriod. She used to be Captain of the Guard under Alvarez Loriod. After the Change, Loriod demanded that everyone take up lifestyles that suited their new forms. She resents the way she has been treated, but she has learned to adapt to love her new husband Barney. In the end, she and Barney are moved to Whales to be closer to their daughter, and to remove them from Loriod's influence.
  • Barney: Josephina's wife and Loriod's fishkeeper. He is an otter morph. He is a simple man who takes great pride in his work and loves his wife dearly. His time serving Loriod has made him fearful of showing the slightest disrespect to nobles. He and Josephina are moved to Whales.
  • Thalberg: The King's Steward. Loriod calls upon him to find a replacement for his fish keeper. Thalberg tells Thomas about Loriod's outburst, providing enough cause to send Rupert to his castle.
  • Doctor Channing: A headmaster of the Writer's Guild, who retranslated Felix's prophecies and brought it to Phil's, Thomas's, and Matthias's attention.
  • Dorson: Wessex's apprentice for years, a ferret morph. He specializes in studies of protection against contagious magic. He is seduced by the censor's power, and killed by Zagrosek.
  • Misha Brightleaf: A Long Scout and a friend of Matthias.
  • Heraclitus: A dragon courier for Whales. He rescues Charles from the north and carries him to Whales and to Metamor Keep.
  • Tenomides: The King of Whales, and Phil's adopted father. He is a tall man with graying hair and wrinkled skin, but his countenance is warm and compassionate.
  • Cerulean: A dragon native to Metamor Keep. He is blue with purple eyes.

Cameo:

  • Bob / Posti: The Prime Minister of the Keep.
  • Dan: A grasshopper morph who tends the gardens.
  • Donny: Bartender of the Deaf Mule.
  • Michael: A newcomer to the Keep, a timber man, and a beaver morph. He attends his first Gnawer's Meeting here, with his new love interest Pascal.
  • Hector: A sculptor, and a rat morph. He attends the Gnawer's Meeting, carving feline heads out of bread and cheese, and biting them off for amusement.
  • Tallis: A writer and a rat morph. He makes friends easily. He and Elliot cheer on Saulius's antics.
  • Elliot: A odd-marked rat morph. He and Tallis cheer on Saulius's antics.
  • Julian: A quiet rat morph, keeping to himself at the Gnawer's Meeting.
  • Goldmark: A rat morph who enjoys thievery. Partway through the Gnawer's Meeting, he changes to a full rat and disappears.
  • Bernadette: A Keep servant, Kimberly's best friend, and a mouse morph. She attends the Gnawer's Meeting.
  • Brian Coe: The Keep healer.
  • Raven: The Lightbringer of the Keep. She is among those summoned to cure Phil.
  • Caroline: Misha's girlfriend.
  • Christopher: Lord of a local duchy that mines iron. He initially disagrees with Thomas about deposing Loriod.
  • Barnhardt: A lord whose family has had long ties to Loriod. He also disagrees with Thomas about deposing Loriod.
  • Peracles: A messenger for King Tenomides.
  • Edwina: A guard for the Keep.

Important Mention:

  • Nasoj: The evil wizard of the Northlands. This time, he has an amulet that can make insects part-Lutin and under his control. He has left the amulet in Aradarb, away from his Dark Citadel, for safe-keeping.
  • Alvarez Loriod: Loriod's former husband. He died after turning into a bird morph, shortly after the Curses had been placed.
  • Hester: A very reliable spy for Phil, who lives as a dog in Nasoj's kennels. Nasoj's amulet is of such concern that she breaks her schedule and sends an unconventionally indiscreet scroll to Phil.
  • Horatio: A candidate for a position as Journeyman of the Guild, and a male gendermorph. As a non-native of Whales, his entry defies tradition, but his qualifications impress Phil enough to select him.
  • Marguerite: Josephine's former wife. She was Altera Loriod's lady-in-waiting. She died during the Change itself. Loriod reveals that he raped her during the night of the battle, and killed her soon afterward.

Referenced:

  • Zhypar Habakkuk: A friend of Matthias, and a kangaroo morph. Matthias knew him before the Keep, although Zhypar did not remember him.
  • Saroth: The Keep's weather mage, a dragon morph. He isn't sure what is causing the unseasonably hot weather.
  • Copernicus: A friend of Matthias's, and a member of the party that resulted in Chris's affliction.
  • Chris: A bear morph who'd recently been afflicted and cured of a curse.
  • Jon: The deer morph who witnessed Charles's attack on the Duke.
  • Mad Felix: The seer who'd written the Horse-King prophecy.
  • Magus: The most powerful mage at the Keep, skilled in many disciplines but not necessarily the very best.
  • Gregor: The Keep baker.

Story Connections

  • The events of this story were all kicked off by the events of Fetish and Attacking Cossack.
  • More background on this story, including information only revealed in later stories, can be found in the Loriod's Schemes event page.
  • The prophecy of Felix of Lee, the reinstatement of Phil as Crown Prince of Whales, and the spring tornado are all covered in Winds of Destiny.
  • Phil mentioned that he would burst into flames if the Curse were lifted, as explained in Playing With Fire.
  • The same Gnawer's Meeting is covered in Colors, which also details Michael's and Pascal's relationship at the time.
  • Oren is introduced in Oren, who apparently arrives between chapter 19 and the epilogue.
  • Other minor callbacks:

Points of Interest

  • According to Matthias, occupations in the Southlands are heavily specialized. The mage clans use colors to distinguish their ranking system: from weakest to strongest, yellow, green, blue, red, purple, black, white. Knowledge of the white is closely-guarded; the blacks are assumed to be the leaders, and there is only one white at a time.
    • These are the same colors that are cycled through, in order, on the circle Zagrosek uses to kill Loriod.
  • Phil has a special quill that lets him write with his mouth. It was made for him by a fan of his work.
  • Phil has a small collection of coins from his travels, some magical. He is particularly proud to own some Zilvaras.
  • The standard way of drawing runes without activating them is to indicate the first stroke in dots.
  • The two runes in particular:
    • The "S" is a basic silence spell, to prevent people outside from listening to the inside. The specific design is used mainly by their "Enemy", presumably Nasoj.
    • An "X" is always a blocking spell, with different varieties for different spells. The "X" Phil shows is designed to counter the above "S", but there is also a tracer modification, so that the identities and locations of anyone who ever entered the room afterwards would be known to someone else. Phil suspects that this rune could have been placed everywhere throughout Metamor. It is through this method that Zagrosek can track potentially every occupant of Metamor Keep.
  • The Iros was a captured flagship of an enemy of Whales.
  • A few unidentified mages accompany Calephas and Cajudy. The one who dies alongside Cajudy had a lightning tattoo on his ear.
  • Loriod believes that women are able to control the sexual urges of their gender curse because of the feminine fear of rape, which he does not share.
  • Zagrosek and his followers tell Loriod to stay clear of the northern side of Metamor Keep's walls. This is presumably where the spell controlling Metamor's weather has been cast.
  • Phil's successor to the Master of Fire is an old friend who helps select candidates for Journeyman of the Guild.
  • The sum of Josephina's and Barney's possessions could be compensated for the price of two gold.
  • When assaulting Loriod's castle, Rupert carries the following spy tools, state secrets of Whales (a nation not suspected of spying or advanced magic):
    • A diamond-studded bladed saw to cut through wood in near perfect silence;
    • A sensor to detect magic, with a narrow slit of light for only the user to see;
    • An object locator, which can be tuned to anything (here, to goldfish, as they are known to be kept in the throne room);
    • A velvety black circle of cloth. When laid out perfectly flat on a surface, and a single drop of water applied (here, water from a corner of Walrus Bay where Rupert's ex-wife life), the area beneath it is teleported to the source of that water;
    • An ordinary length of rope;
    • A pipette filled with anti-magic powder, one of Whales's most expensive, secret, and dangerous items. (Despite being secret, every mage in Whales is said to know of it.) It counters magic by slowing it down; because of the inherent magic of life, a single touch is deadly. The pipette directs it in one direction, while the powder itself is formulated to float in the air towards strong magic;
    • A sandbag, which is Rupert's weapon of choice for knocking out guards;
    • A potion, which renders the user completely compliant and listless. Rupert carries it in case Phil enters a frantic animal state.
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