Metamor Keep, by Copernicus

Story name: Metamor Keep
Author: Copernicus
Publication date: November 22, 1997 (on TSA-Talk)
Special note: The very first story of Metamor Keep

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

Overview

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, Copernicus

Supporting: Jerek, the Merchant Captain, Brian Coe, Mark, Jenn

Cameo: Pascal, Phil, Wanderer, Malisa, Jason, Bob

Mentioned: Tim, Garek, Scarett, Thomas Hassan, J Wells, Arthur, Bill Hart, Jennifer Adams, Charles Matthias, Bryan Derkson, IWP, Magus, Jon Sleeper, Destrier, Tony, Wildstar, Jack, Redtailed

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.2
  • The changes and positions of the royal courtiers are as follows:
    • Pascal, porcupine, alchemist;
    • Phil, rabbit;
    • Wanderer, wolf, actor and poet;
    • J Wells, writer;
    • Arthur, artist;
    • Bill Hart, writer;
    • Jennifer Adams, writer;
    • Charles Matthias, writer;
    • Jon Sleeper, writer;
    • Bryan Derkson, mad scientist;
    • IWP, mystic;
    • Magus, wizard and writer;
    • Copernicus, lizard, astrologer and wizard and jester;
    • Bob, horse, Prime Minister.
  • Jenn and Malisa are engaged.
  • Destrier and Tony are two of Posti's fellow racers, presumably also equine morphs.
  • Wildstar does magical training, while Jack does weapons training.
  • Redtailed is apparently the name of a scout.
  • Malisa is seen berating a cat morph named Jason, telling him to make his next story about a lizard and to make it 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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