Malvoisin by Wanderer

Story name: Malvoisin
Author: Wanderer
Date: 699 CR
Special note: The story of the Battle of the Three Gates

Characters

Main Characters: Posti, Kindle, Duke Thomas Hassan, Nasoj

Supporting: Jack DeMule, Jonathan, Pascal, Magus

Cameo: Copernicus, Quiz, Phil

Summary

Robert Stein, known as Posti, tries to teach his apprentice Kindle to see Shapes. Frustrated, he takes a jar of ointment from a small featureless chest (carefully so that the boy cannot see how to open it), and smears the ointment on the boy's eyes, which allows him to see shadows of people and animals in the distance, the flow of magical energy from Posti, and his own green gleaming fire, the innocence of youth. He then orders Kindle to take the shape of his chosen element Fire, and to apply it to a candle. After many false starts, Kindle finally succeeds in lighting it. The Shapes, according to Posti, are patterns from which all Creation was made, and it is through them that wizards change things in the world. He orders him to wash off the ointment and try again, when there is a knock on the door.

It is Copernicus, a personal guard of Duke Thomas. The Duke has summoned Posti, Magus and Pascal to tell them that the garrisons in the Giantdowns have been routed, and Nasoj's forces will be upon them in days. The King's armies will take at least a month to arrive, and food stores are only three weeks' full. With that, he dismisses them to prepare for the upcoming siege, and then summons Jack DeMule and Jonathan. Jonathan gives as complete a history of the Keep as possible, then asks Jack for an report on their defenses. Jack says they could hold for a month if necessary. He has another thing to add, but not until Jonathan is dismissed: he is not happy to have so many "artists" in the court. Thomas is proud of his patronage, but even if he could evacuate them, there isn't enough time.

As Jack leaves the war room, Pascal requests an empty room for one of his experiments, with no windows and no sources of heat. Happy to have a distraction handy for the army, Jack tells Pascal to let the guards give him the extra sentry box between wards one and three.

As Posti and Kindle stockpile supplies, Kindle asks who Nasoj is. Realizing the boy is too young to remember, Posti explains Nasoj's rise to power, and the nature of his threat to Metamor Keep. As he finishes, a horn sounds; Nasoj's army has arrived.

From his tent overlooking Metamor Keep, and a shadow hanging in the air beside him, Nasoj summons one of his two assistants to him. A fragment of the shadow enters the servant, filling him with power. Nasoj reminds the man of their loyalty and sends him off. The shadow then reminds Nasoj of their own bargain: life of another for another century of life.

As Magus, Posti, and Kindle set up the ritual circle, Posti desperately asks where Pascal is, who is already starting his experiment. Posti asks Kindle to stand in the circle in his place, who is scared but agrees. Meanwhile, Thomas asks Quiz to find Jack at the main ward and ask him where Pascal was, as Jack was the last person he was seen with.

The lutins are easily beaten back at the walls, and Nasoj considers asking the shadow to empower them. But an inspection of the golden protection spell around the Keep reveals it only slightly stronger than earlier keeps, so he orders the troops back to deploy three protected mages. In an instant, each gate is hit with the animal curse, the gender curse, or the age curse respectively. Pascal and Quiz, just a few feet apart on opposite sides of the wall, are both targets of cross spells, changing both gender and species.

Posti pleads with the other mages not to lose concentration, but the spell threatens to overpower them. Thinking quickly, he tells Kindle to take ointment from his pouch and smear it on his eyes. Kindle does so, also applying it to his own and to Magus's eyes. Magus then asks Kindle to take his staff and raise it in the center of the circle to strengthen the Keep's protection spell. Nasoj detects the spell's interference, and tries to add his own lutin army's energies to his spells, but he is overpowered, and the shadow sweeps him away before the reformed soldiers plow back into the lutins, finally ending the battle.

A month later, Jack demands that Posti undo the spell, but he cannot. Nasoj's spell has become blended in with the protection spell; to remove one would remove the other. As Jack asks how the hooved guard will handle weapons, Pascal emerges, not the least bothered by her own changes, or even aware that Nasoj had invaded last month. Posti assures Jack that it could be worse; they have a new cook in the kitchen. Just then, they hear a series of squeaks from the kitchen.

Jonathan's History of the Keep

The earliest records describe "Metamor" as "M'tammur", documented by Eldin the Fat's armies, but protected by a magic shield that prevented access beyond the main yard. By its next exploration, the shield was gone; by the time of King Godwin, M'tammur Keep had become permanently occupied and known as Metamor Keep. Little information remains between these two eras, as records were destroyed during the wars of succession. Three generations ago, a map was attempted of the Keep, but the interior was found to change shape, such that it always had enough accomodations for everyone, with laboratories and apartments appearing before they were needed. The tavern itself appeared in Thomas's 16th year. Alas, it cannot produce unusual or defensive structures.

Jack's Description of the Keep

The Keep's outer defensive wall is triangular-shaped, each side guarded with an iron portcullis and iron-bound doors, with arrow slits for support. The inner wall is much the same.1

Posti's Description of Nasoj

Nasoj is the most powerful mage known, perhaps more powerful than three mages acting as one. He is said to have gained his power by freeing a powerful and evil spirit, in exchange for a life for every century he lived. His one weakness is his lack of knowledge; the spirit handles the scutwork. It is precisely because of his power, however, that he is feared: one well-placed spell could destroy them all.

Other Points of Interest

  • "Malvoisin" was the name of various siege towers used by the French. It literally means "bad neighbor".
  • Kindle's birth name is Randall.
  • Magus is mentioned as the most powerful wizard at the Keep; in the first story, Posti was the most powerful.2
  • This is the first story to mention Thomas's title as Duke.
  • The description of the battle here differs from Copernicus's account in the first story. In that story, there was only one main gate through the outer wall to a courtyard, to which the three gates were adjoined. The main gate was opened to draw Nasoj into a trap, and it was inside the courtyard that Nasoj cast his spells. In this story, the outer wall has three gates, and it was on these gates that the spells were cast.3
  • During the curse, a fox appears in the library with a deer, which would suggest it would be Fox Cutter and Jonathan; however, in a later story, Fox Cutter reveals he arrived in Metamor Keep a year after the battle.
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