Perceptions of Evil, by Dan D'Alimonte

Story name: Perceptions of Evil
Author: Dan D'Alimonte

Date: Spring - Summer 706 CR
Location: Carreas, Metamor Keep

Overview

Topo is mistaken for a demon, and nearly loses his life over a plot to overthrow the Duke of Carreas.

Summary

A merchant named Tiel arrives at the palace of Carreas after sunset to meet with the Duke. He is confused by the strange hours the Duke keeps, and waits in the palace chapel for the appointed time. His old friend Father Malion greets him, having not seen him in-person for years. Malion, who is also a school headmaster, is curious where Tiel got the works of fiction that he was sent. Upon learning that they are from Metamor Keep, he gets angry and promises to immediately destroy the work of the "accursed demons". A hooded figure behind them tells him not to cast judgment on matters he does not understand. After the priest storms off, and the figure wishes Tiel a good evening, a page arrives to bring him to the Duke.

In his office, Duke Anteno introduces Tiel to the robed figure, his friend Topo. They briefly discuss Malion, before the Duke explains the reason for his summons. He wishes to re-establish trade routes to strengthen Carras's economy, and knows Tiel is one of the few merchants with experience and business connections outside the kingdom. He asks him to start with a shipment of lumber to nearby Felisea, and for Topo to accompany him. Topo protests that he has just returned from a trip, but the Duke knows he can handle another trip, and that he needs someone he can trust to oversee the proceedings. Topo decides that he may as well reveal himself, and he disrobes to show off both his feathered mouse form, and his hawk form. Tiel faints. After he recovers, the Duke explains what Topo is, and assures him that Topo will not cause any trouble on the road.

The two of them begin their three-day journey to the Felisea border, visiting taverns to get news on the roads ahead. At the border, they are captured by goons working for Baron Cenese, a supporter of the former Duke, exiled to the lands outside Carreas. Father Malion is working with him, believing Topo to be a demon and an evil influence upon Duke Anteno. Cenese explains to Tiel that Malion will expose Topo to the people of Roccome, stirring them to rebellion against the Duke when he arrives to free the weremouse. They allow Tiel to ride off, while Topo is kept isolated in a pit, the mesh too tight and walls too smooth for him to escape.

Topo tries to convince Father Malion that he isn't a demon, but Malion refuses to listen. After six days — nearly enough for Tiel to ride to the capital, and for the Duke to ride back — Topo, in his mouse form, is forced into a cage for travel. After a day's travel, an hour before sunset, they arrive in the market square of Roccome. Cenese ties a wire around Topo's neck that will stretch as the weremouse transforms, up to the point just before he reaches his full size, when it will harden and strangle him. Malion is sure it will be unnecessary, but complies as he prepares for his exorcism on Topo.

The villagers do not react as Cenese or Malion expect; they laugh when they see Malion uncover a mouse, and are confused as they see it change. Malion finishes his exorcism, and upon seeing it have no effect on Topo, he realizes his mistake. As Tiel and the Duke's soldiers arrive, Malion frees Topo from the wire. The enraged Cenese stabs Malion, and nearly stabs Topo before he is run through by the Duke's men.

Topo assures Tiel and the Duke that weremice heal quickly, but Malion's wound is deep. Seeing no other option, Topo cuts his hand and mixes his blood with Malion's, giving him the weremouse curse. Malion soon begins to heal. The Duke knows, however, that rumors will soon spread about what happened here. He asks Tiel for a favor.

At Metamor Keep, Dan is startled by the appearance of a stranger from Carreas. He introduces himself as Tiel, and presents him a letter from the Duke. In the letter, the Duke tells him that Topo is to be exiled in Metamor Keep, until conditions back in Carreas return to normal.

Meanwhile, in a monastery in Carreas, two monks discuss the strange priest who keeps to himself in his cell, and refuses to come out at night. They leave him, quietly weeping to himself, as the sun sets.

Characters

Main characters:

  • Tiel: A merchant. He is slightly overweight and wears bright robes. Unlike most merchants of Carreas, he has a large range of contacts outside of Carreas. He was a friend of Father Malion for years; though he last spoke with him 10 years ago, he has been sending letters to him on occasion. He becomes a good friend to Topo by the end.
  • Topo: A weremouse. By day he is an intelligent but non-morphic mouse; by night he is a feathered mouse morph who can shift into a falcon. He gained his feathered forms from a visit to Metamor Keep in The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Grasshoppers. He has been Anteno Carras's friend for three years. Anteno Carras values his opinion so much, he holds official meetings after sunset. All of the Ministers and most of the council know about him and keep him secret to the public. He is nearly suffocated by Father Malion and Baron Cenese, and sent to Metamor Keep both to recover and to keep him out of danger.
  • Father Malion: The house priest for the Duke of Carreas. Before moving to the palace, he directed a school run by younger priests, and even as court priest he visited the school from time to time. He is a staunch crusader against demons, and believes Metamor is in league with demons. In the end, he is fatally stabbed, but Topo mixes their blood together, passing the weremorph curse to him and saving his life. He is hidden in a monastery, ashamed of what he has become.

Supporting characters:

  • Anteno Carras: The Duke of Carreas, and the former Duke Mechello's nephew. He had been placed on the throne at a young age, intended to be easily controlled by the court. Instead, he surrounded himself with strong supporters and removed the corrupt lords from the court. Ever since then, the lords have been fighting to regain the power they lost. He spent much of his time travelling in foreign lands as a youth, which was how he met Topo.
    • Though offended, Anteno does not forbid Malion's rhetoric; in fact, he elevated Malion to the position of house priest in order to better control him.
  • Baron Santo Cenese: The former Prime Minister of Carreas, and former ally of Michello. He is a tall man with a slight paunch, who delights in showing off his wealthy, almost but not quite to the point of garishness. He was the Lord of the Green Fields and Warden of the River Trane, among other titles. After Michello was deposed, Cenese fled to the lands north of Carras, where he has been plotting to overthrow Duke Anteno. He enters an alliance with Father Malion, convincing him that the demon Topo has corrupted the Duke. When Malion has a change of heart, Cenese stabs him and tries to kill Topo, but is killed by the Duke's soldiers before he can strike.

Minor characters:

  • Dreom: A councilor and minister to the Duke, known to be one of the Duke's closest confidants. He is aware of Topo, but respects the Duke's wishes and keeps him secret.
  • Dan D'Alimonte: A quartermaster and gardener of Metamor Keep. He and his family had been residents of Carreas, forced into exile during Mechello's reign. The new duke Anteno has offered him a place in his court, but Dan has turned it down for the time being. He becomes Topo's caretaker by the end.

Cameo:

  • Laracin: The tamarack morph in Metamor Keep's courtyard.
  • Jhala, Francois: Two monks in Carreas. They discuss their new guest at the monastery.

Important Mention:

  • Mechello: The former duke of Carreas. He had been the last in a line of corrupt rulers of Carreas. His death was unexpected and left a power struggle between the many lords of Carreas, until they decided on Mechello's nephew, the young Anteno.
  • Lapira: A baron of Carreas, known as the Timber Baron for his vast holdings of wood.

Referenced:

  • Kilan: The Minister of Trade for Carreas. He lacks the real world experience that Tiel has.
  • Arch-bishop of Carreas: He has refused to censure Father Malion for his opinions on Metamor Keep, until hearing from the Patriarch.
  • The Patriarch: He has not given a ruling on Metamor Keep yet to contradict Malion's word.
  • Copernicus: He gives tours to new inhabitants.

Locations

  • Carreas: The duchy ruled by Anteno Carras. For four decades it has been led by corrupt officials. It is several months' journey from Metamor Keep.
    • Carreas's treasury is low, and the Duke is desperate to rebuild his trade network. The economy is largely in farming and mining, leaving the manufacturing to their neighbors. The Duke's trade reforms and tax relief have been a boon to trade; however, their increased public funding and lack of tariffs have stifled their revenue.
    • Pessca: The capital city of Carreas. A few years ago, there was a stand-off between garrison soldiers and peasants and soldiers loyal to Duke Anteno. The peasants took heavy casualties, but the rebel soldiers surrendered to the Duke's army after being routed to the barracks.
    • The Duke's palace is a line of family portraits of the Carras family, beside which is a small Ecclesian chapel, at the time run by Father Malion.
    • Mille Creek: A river that crosses the road between Pessca and the Felisea border.
    • Cenese's former estate is currently being used as a school for the peasants.
    • Roccome: A village in Carreas, about a four days' ride from Pessca. It is near the Carreas-Felisea border .
  • Felisea: A kingdom to the east of Carreas, a three days' ride from the capital of Pessca. They are in need of lumber due to a recent fire.

Points of Interest

  • The metal wire Cenese uses is alchemical. It stretches up to a certain point, and it hardens into steel.
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