Metamor Keep, by Copernicus

Story name: Metamor Keep
Author: Copernicus
Publication date: November 22, 1997 (on TSA-Talk)

Date: Spring 706 CR, 5 to 4 weeks before Easter1
Location: Northern Midlands, Metamor Valley, Metamor Keep

Overview

In the very first story of Metamor Keep, Michael is introduced to Metamor Keep and its many strange inhabitants.

Summary

Michael was the youngest of three children, born on a farm near a small village in Bernicia. His father had been drafted when he was young, leaving his iron-willed mother to press him and his siblings hard. When he was 17, his immediate family died of the plague. Michael left the farm to his uncle, and set out on his own. After seeing some guards at an inn, he purchased a sword and armor and applied to be a guard.

On his first trip, Michael's merchant captain reminds them of their next destination Metamor Keep, and the guards grumble with disgust. As the captain leaves, Michael asks a friendly guard Jerek what she meant. Jerek tells him that Metamor Keep was built thousands of years ago in the pass between the Giantdowns, where dark magic and monsters lay, and the Midlands, where they are. It has protected them for thousands of years, and they are good warriors. But a few years ago, an army led by a sorceror came down the pass. The Keepers rebuffed him, but at great cost. Jerek is reluctant to explain how, reminding him to just watch for the Lutins, tiny deformed people who continually raid the area.

The caravan moves more slowly on the road to Metamor Keep, the soldiers getting more tense the closer they get. After passing a sign marking the boundary, two beautiful women step out, fully armed with weapons. They examine the captain's papers and then send her on. 2 miles from the Keep, Lutins ambush the caravan. Although the guards are skilled, Michael is baffled how to fight, and beheads one by luck. One of the Lutins slings a rock at his head, knocking him out. After the battle, the guards realize they'll have to leave Michael at the Keep; his head injury is too severe to make the journey back. Someone apologizes for not being there to fight, and reluctantly takes Michael in.

Michael awakens slowly, panicking when he sees a reptilian snout inches from his face. He looks around, and finds himself in a small bed in a clean room, but with a clothed humanoid raccoon and lizard occupying it. The lizard introduces himself as Copernicus, and the raccoon as Brian. After another moment of sleep, Michael finds he has a thick beard, and asks how long he's been out. Brian says a week; the caravan left long ago. Everyone at the Keep has been taking turns watching him, except Copernicus, who has been here almost non-stop. He was on patrol that night, and feels guilty being ambushed, even though he isn't as skilled a fighter as most Keepers.

Copernicus re-enters, and Michael is ready for the tour of the Keep. He marvels at the twenty-foot ceilings and glass windows in the main hall, and the inhabitants: beautiful women in military gear, animal people, and children who act like adults.

Copernicus leads Michael down another hallway to a tavern, The Deaf Mule. A bull named Donny serves them, and a ten-year-old named Mark Van Sciver calls out to Copernicus, accompanied by a woman named Jenn Rose. They explain that 6 years ago, they were all normal human men, until Nasoj cast a spell on the defenders. Some got animal forms, called morphs, and can change between a full animal and a hybrid. Some were youthened, known as AR's, and can change between appearing about fourteen to newborns. Some changed genders, but can only change towards being bombshells. There are also women who became men as well.

Copernicus explains that the AR's do spy work down south, as they are in the least amount of danger. Jenn explains that the women work in the military, and help out for anyone too short or without thumbs. Their ruler is Thomas Hassan, though he is quite humble. In fact, social hierarchy is loose in Metamor Keep. Copernicus invites Michael to see the court.

Copernicus tells the story of Metamor Keep: outsiders have always been welcome at the Keep to defend the pass from the northern invaders. 6 years ago, Nasoj and his massive horde of monsters invaded the pass, driving the defenders into the Keep. After a long attrition, a plan was made to open the gate from the outer wall into the courtyard, while their warriors occupied three gates leading into the Keep. As Nasoj's army moved in, he threw the three spells on each of the gates. For a moment, each section was paralyzed by their transformations, and the wizards worked a counterspell. Nasoj's magic was unique, though, and the counterspell only partially succeeded, changing them to their current forms. But it was enough for them to destroy the army.

Copernicus then introduces the many members of the court, including Malisa the adopted daughter of Thomas, and the Prime Minister Bob. As he concludes the tour and shows him to his room. Michael protests that he hasn't even agreed to stay, and Copernicus reveals that anyone who stays near the Keep longer than a week, as Michael had while unconscious, the curse effects them too. Michael feels the fur on his neck; as an animal morph, he will be stuck at Metamor Keep.

Characters

Main Characters:

  • Michael: A young farmer whose family recently died from plague. He tried to be a guard, but was knocked out during his first assignment outside of Metamor Keep. Due to being unconscious for a week, the Curse is slowly affecting him, turning him into an animal morph.
  • Copernicus: A lizard morph, who acts as court astrologer, court wizard, court jester, and court lizard. He is the first person Michael sees upon waking up. He feels guilty for Michael's condition, as it was his patrol that was to escort Michael's caravan to the Keep, and was interrupted by a Lutin attack. He gives Michael a whirlwind tour of the Keep. Before the Curse, he wore glasses and was 5'10".

Supporting:

  • Jerek: A friend of Michael's in the caravan. He informs Michael about the Keep, Lutins, and other dangers.
  • The Merchant Captain: A no-nonsense captain of Michael's caravan, a sharp trader, and a feared but respected captain. Her exploits in her earlier days make for popular stories amongst the crew.
  • Brian Coe: Describes himself as a part time scout, part time nurse, and part time card raccoon. He is the second person Michael sees upon waking up.

Minor Characters:

  • Mark Van Sciver: A 26-year-old diplomat, spy, and a child morph. He affectionately calls Copernicus "Lizard Lips", who in turn calls him "Pampers". He explains to Michael about the Battle of the Three Gates.
  • Jenn Rose: A female gendermorph. She describes for Michael the impact of the gender curse. She is engaged to Princess Malisa.

Cameo:

  • Pascal: A porcupine morph, and court alchemist.
  • Phil: A rabbit morph, described as "court rabbit".
  • Wanderer: A wolf morph, and court actor and poet.
  • Malisa: The adopted daughter of Thomas, and heir to the throne. She's a decent fighter and a talented wizard, but is known for a temper. She is engaged to Jenn.
  • Jason: A cat morph being rebuked by Malisa.
  • Bob: A horse morph, Prime Minister and the most powerful wizard of the Keep.
  • J Wells: A court writer.
  • Arthur: A court artist.
  • Bill Hart: A court writer.
  • Jennifer Adams: A court writer.
  • Charles Matthias: A court writer.
  • Bryan Derkson: The court mad scientist.
  • IWP: The court mystic.
  • Magus: A court wizard and court writer.
  • Jon Sleeper: A court writer.

Important Mention:

  • Thomas Hassan: Ruler of Metamor Keep.
  • Destrier and Tony: Two horse morphs who race with Bob.
  • Wildstar: A teacher of magic.
  • Jack: A weapons trainer at the Keep.
  • Redtailed: A scout.

Referenced:

  • Tim and Garek: Two guards who died with the Lutin attack on Michael's caravan.
  • Scarett: A guard who lost an eye in the Lutin attack on Michael's caravan.

Locations:

  • The Northern Midlands: The country where Michael and other humans live in relative peace.
    • Bernicia: Michael's homeland.
    • The unnamed town that Michael and the caravan visit before Metamor Keep. It is surrounded by forest, with trees and grass growing all around. It contains a small tavern which satisfies the guards.
  • The Giantdowns: The country to the north, where evil magic runs wild, where monsters, giants, and lutins live.
  • Metamor Keep: A fortress set in a mountain pass between the Midlands and the Giantdowns. At the north entrance is a great gate leading to a courtyard. Between the courtyard and the Keep are three gates.2 Geometry within the Keep itself is said to be variable; there is always enough room for more. At least some of the halls are built out of marble with clear glass windows.
    • The Deaf Mule: It is accessed via hallway within the Keep3.
    • The throne room: The throne room is a breathtaking room; visitors have been known to pass out. On the domed roof are painted scenes of battle from the Keep's past. Elevated gilded chairs line the walls towards the duke's throne, which sits atop a plain marble dias. Behind it is a smaller throne for the second-in-line. In the corner is a desk for the prime minister.
    • The library and the gym are mentioned but not visited.

Points of Interest

  • Every member of the Keep mentioned was the name of a prominent Transformation Story Archive member at the time of writing. Their occupations generally reflected their real-life aspirations, albeit with medieval theming.
  • Thomas is not given a title here, though he is indirectly called a king twice. Later stories will establish his title as Duke.4
  • Malisa is seen berating a cat morph named Jason, reminding him to make his next story the right size for the library. These are TSA-List in-jokes; the first to the then-recent controversy stirred up by a List member named Jason (who also inspired the name of the wizard Nasoj); the second to several incidents about List members sending stories too big for the mailing list to handle.
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