Stepping Up to Destiny, by Charles Matthias and Chris O'Kane

Story name: Stepping Up to Destiny
Author: Charles Matthias & Chris O'Kane

Date: The Summer Equinox Festival, 3 days, and the day after
Location: Metamor Keep

Overview

The Summer Festival. Charles and Saulius compete in the jousting tournament, while Misha offers a few people the chance to join the Long Scouts.

Summary

Day 1

Today is the first day of the Summer Festival. Misha and Will have set up a booth for their Fadger clocks, attracting several people thanks to Madog. Madog disappears suddenly when Yonson appears, curious about the famous clocks. Charles, Kimberly, and Gornul are walking through the stalls when they see Yonson and Misha together, and Charles quickly guides them to an elephant glassblower, where they buy a beautiful sculpture of two rat lovers.

Once Yonson leaves, Charles visits Misha, and Madog reappears. Madog explains that he does not like Yonson, that there is something unseen about him. Misha shrugs it off, thinking he refers to Yonson's powerful magic ability. Misha doesn't trust him, and Charles agrees, telling all of them to stay away from Yonson, though he is too busy to elaborate. Before he leaves, Misha tells him about the archery contest, which Caroline and possibly himself will participate in.

The tournament begins with every knight and squire gathering in the field while Thalberg gives an opening address, and Wanderer reads two commemorative poems. Breyden and Saulius start the first joust, first with several rounds of good-natured roasting of the other. When Breyden pauses under Saulius's quick wit, Thomas calls for the next stage of the joust. Charles and Breyden's squire ride out to capture as many rings from a set of poles as they can. Next comes the joust, during which Breyden's lance snaps into pieces, while Saulius's lance bends but does not break. Though Thomas declares him winner of the first round, Thalberg is furious and declares Saulius's lance illegal. Saulius dismisses Charles, as he is not needed until evening.

In the bleachers, Charles meets Lurene and Chris, now in a wooden wheelchair, and warns them about Yonson. Gornul arrives to tell Charles where Kimberly is, and they set out.

Having enjoyed the day together, Charles, Gornul, and Kimberly walk through the gardens where they meet Garigan and Lord Avery. Lord Avery is admiring a hyacinth in the garden, which Charles recognizes as native to the southern borders of the Pyralian Kingdoms. Kimberly invites the two to join them at the Deaf Mule, but Avery has already been invited to dine with the Duke. Kimberly then teases Charles for drinking at Lars's tavern, who in turn teases her and Caroline of emasculating him and Misha.

That evening, as Misha is taking a bath, Phil visits Misha. Misha tells him that Charles has decided to join the Long Scouts. Phil asks what he knows about Charles's magic, and Misha reveals that he has been consulting with his sister, who knows that Charles is part of a southern faction called the Sondecki. Phil shifts the topic to Rickkter, but Misha only knows about his skills, not his history. They both agree to keep Charles's and Rickkter's allegiances private, as they fear retribution from either side. Before Phil leaves, Misha mentions that Oren asked to join the Long Scouts that morning. He doesn't trust him fully, and hasn't decided yet whether to accept him, but admits his anti-magic would be useful.

Day 2

The next morning, while Matthias is catching up on work at the Writer's Guild, Rickkter enters, demanding to know why Matthias sent him a message. Matthias tells him about the new ambassador from Marzac. Like Charles, Rickkter is very incredulous that Yonson is from Marzac, or that Marzac was exorcised, but agrees to stay away from him. He asks why Charles is taking on a student, and Charles calls it none of his business, and to stay away from Garigan or else face his wrath.

During the second round of jousting, Saulius uses a replacement lance, per Thalberg's orders. He faces Molvere, a weasel from Lorland. Although Charles scores two fewer rings than Molvere's squire, Saulius tricks Molvere into swerving his lance and throwing off his balance, easily knocking him off his mount.

Garigan is lost trying to find the joust, getting his purse stolen in the process. At Will Hardy's booth, he stumbles into Zhypar, buzzed from alcohol. Garigan glumly shares how much he misses Glen Avery, and Zhypar sympathizes. Zhypar begins probing into his lessons with Charles, and Garigan says that he is only doing chores, and asks why Charles's past should matter. Suddenly Zhypar stares off and announces that somebody will die from a shadow without a shadow before the year has ended. Garigan calls him drunk. Zhypar gestures to the jewels on Will Hardy's stand, and says that some people have the time and skill to fashion beautiful diamonds, but people like Charles are rash and ignorant, leaving ruins and crushing diamonds. Garigan is outraged and storms off, ignoring Zhypar's offer to guide him to the joust.

In another field, where one-on-one duels have been fought earlier, Andre and Jenn watch Misha demonstrate his axe-wielding skills to an amazed crowd. Caroline acts as an assistant; as part of the show, Misha slices through her dress without a single scratch on her.

Saulius defeats his last opponent of the small division. He hopes that Thomas will choose him for the final round. Dismissed for the day, Charles finds Kimberly and Garigan in the stands. While Andre jousts in the tournament, and Andre's squire twists his leg, the three of them chat, and Garigan tells him about his uncomfortable meeting with Zhypar, and that he has a message from Rickkter about Yonson. Charles warns them to stay away from Zhypar, and suggests that they go somewhere private before hearing the message.

In Charles's quarters, Garigan tells them that Yonson beat Rickkter in a duel, with a certain weapon that Charles would know. Charles pales, and orders them not to go near Zhypar or Yonson as well. He tells them that he is a Southlands mage, and cannot risk Yonson discovering who he is. He wishes he could live in Glen Avery, but to do so now would attract suspicion. He plans to go on "sabbatical" from the Writer's Guild and join the Long Scouts, and has them swear not to tell it to anyone. The three of them depart to the Mule for supper.

Day 3

The next day, Charles and Kimberly meet Brian and Angela Avery in the market. Kimberly and Angela exchange knowing looks towards the two men, and so Brian and Charles leave the two and watch the boys together. They discuss married life, children, Brian's noble obligations to Glen Avery, and the final round of the joust; Charles proudly announces that he and Saulius will joust against Sir Andre. Brian says that he and Angela will be at the Mule later that evening for dinner, and looks forward to seeing Charles there again.

At the joust, Charles is surprised to see Misha taking over as Andre's squire. He also notices Saulius is using his family's lance, despite Thalberg's orders. With the power of the Sondeck, Charles steadies his arm and scores all 9 rings. Andre and Saulius both knock each other off with their lances, and resort to swords. Saulius trips and breaks his tail, but fends off Andre before he can claim victory. In a fast move, Saulius swings himself over the fence-line, knocks the sword from the surprised Andre, and draws the slightest of Andre's blood from under his breastplate. Saulius is declared winner of the tournament, and awarded the golden lance. Charles is most proud, as it is because of his visits to the cellar that he gave Saulius happiness and purpose.

Meanwhile, Misha tells Oren at his booth that he has been accepted into the Long Scouts. Brian and Angela Avery find Garigan in the gardens, still homesick for Glen Avery. He rejects their invitation to dinner at the Mule, but he promises to stay in the gardens to see them later that evening.

At the Deaf Mule, Misha and Caroline are surprised to see Rickkter with someone else, the skunk Kayla. Misha pulls Rickkter away to ask him to join the Long Scouts. Rickkter already knows who they are, and after a minute's thought, he turns down the offer, as he prefers to fight alone. He asks about finding a table, and Misha mentions that the Averys will be coming along with Charles and Kimberly. Rickkter coldly announces that he won't have dinner with them, despite Misha's protests about his stupid feud with Charles. Caroline returns, and Rickkter apologizes and takes Kayla away with him. His absence is not noticed by Charles and Kimberly, who spend the evening with their four friends musing about the happiness of the Keep despite the curse, before the three men decide to sing some bawdy songs for the crowd.

Day 4

At the start of the next day, Charles enters the empty Writer's Guild. Zhypar storms in and tells him that he is making a mistake, and he knows why he is hiding from Marzac. Before he can elaborate, Phil and the other writers enter. Charles announces his retirement, and that Zhypar will take over his duties, with Tallis as his assistant. The Writer's Guild is shocked, and Charles leaves before they can form too many condolences. He heads straight to Misha's workshop and tells Misha that he is ready to begin Long Scout training.

Tournament Details

  • The jousting tournament takes place in an elongated oval-shaped field, the center of the Summer Festival activities. Two rows of seats line the field; the Duke and his guests are on one side, facing the Keep. There are three entrances to the oval, large walls with gates to symbolize the famous Three Gates.
  • The joust is divided into 3 categories by size. There are 8 total challengers in the small category, 6 animals and 2 children.
  • There are various stages in the joust. First, the trumpets sound; in the final joust, this is the cue for the squires to ride and display the banners of their knights. Next, the two knights ride before the Duke's box, and begin a battle of ripostes against the other; the knight with the quickest and sharpest wit earns points. Next, the squires catch rings on the now must capture 9 rings from a set of poles; whoever catches the most earns points for his knight. Finally, the joust itself takes place between the two knights, with the winner being the first to knock the other off his horse, or if both fall off first, to draw first blood.
  • The first commemorative poem is attributed to a Keeper in the joust, secretly Charles Matthias. It is a call to put away the tools of labor and join in the celebration of the Solstice.
  • The second commemorative poem was written by Wanderer himself. It calls on the Keepers to remember the purpose of the tourney, not just to show their skill, but to bring joy and revelry to the people.

Ring-capturing scores

  • Charles (under Saulius):
    • 3 large, 2 medium, and 1 small ring in his first match;
    • 2 large, 2 medium, and 1 small ring in his second match;
    • 8 rings in his third match.
  • Henry (under Breyden):
    • 3 large, 3 medium, 3 small rings during first and only match.
  • Dorl (under Molvere):
    • 7 rings in his second match.

Characters

Main characters:

  • Charles Matthias: Headmaster of the Writer's Guild and soon-to-be Long Scout, a rat morph. He retires his position at the Writer's Guild at the story's end, in order to begin Long Scout training.
    • He is very proud of being a rodent, and is glad to see Saulius embrace it. He is also proud to be considered a full part of Glen Avery.
    • He grew up surrounded by men. Now, he is insecure about losing his masculinity.
    • He is also proudly wearing black, the colors of his Sondecki rank, though hidden underneath his shirt.
    • His pony in the tournament is named Malicorn.
    • He got angry at Garigan once for interrupting him in his office, putting him into a latrine.
    • He has a new outfit for the tournament, a red and gold tunic.
    • He also purchases a glass statuette of two rat lovers.
    • Charles arrived at the Keep in 700 CR, and never left the Keep even once until his mission to the north, a month before his visit to Glen Avery.
  • Misha Brightleaf: Head of the Long Scouts and Will Hardy's business partner for Fadger Clocks, a fox morph. He also acts as Andre's squire in the final round of the joust.
    • Although he spends an hour or so at his booth, most of Misha's time at the Festival is spent training recruits for the Duke's army. The first day was devoted to the longbow, the next two days on how to move quietly and recognize traps and ambushes. He does take some time to perform a demonstration of his axe-wielding skills, to attend Rickkter's duels, to be Andre's squire in the final joust, and to spend an evening at the Deaf Mule with Caroline, Charles & Kimberly, and the Averys.
    • Misha was not at Yonson's welcoming ceremony; he thought it would be boring and chose not to attend.
    • Misha distrusts anyone who knows more about him than he does them.
    • Misha was near Phil during the Battle of the Three Gates, when Phil caught on fire.
    • Misha wears a pale blue tunic.
  • Sir Saulius: A knight in the tournament, a rat morph. He participates in and wins the jousting tournament with Charles.
    • His family crest used to be a dragon holding wheat; he has changed it to a rat holding wheat. His colors are red and gold.
    • His horse is Armivest, a great black horse. The horse's armor has mouse-like features, to Charles's great pride.
    • Saulius brought his golden lance with him when he arrived at the Keep years ago. It had been passed from father to son for generations. It does not break under pressure, and uses it twice throughout the tournament, against regulations.
    • Saulius arrived at the Keep after Charles, but still years ago.
  • Garigan: Charles's student, a ferret morph from Glen Avery. He has been training with Charles for just over a week, and is proudly wearing his yellow stripes.
    • He is devoted to Glen Avery's way of life, and dislikes crowds and stone buildings.
    • He has heard many stories of the Sondecki from Charles.

Supporting:

  • Kimberly: Charles's beloved, a rat morph. She and Caroline often speak together about their lovers.
    • She was too busy cooking and cleaning in the kitchens to attend the ceremony yesterday.
  • Gornul: A dragonette who speaks in pictures, friends with Oren and Charles.
    • Gornul has a wooden sculpture of himself, made by Hector, as a gift from Charles.
  • Yonson: A diplomat from the Chateau Marzac, a purple Weathermonger. He only arrived the day before, and has not yet been cursed. Charles is still trying to avoid him, and warns other people to avoid him as well. Rickkter challenges him to a duel, and loses.
  • Andre: A friend of Misha's, and a knight in the jousting tournament. He wins his size category, despite his squire's injury, but loses to Saulius in the final joust. He also, with Jenn, watches Misha's axe-wielding demonstration.
  • Lord Brian Avery: The ruler of Glen Avery. He watches the joust with Duke Thomas. On the evening of the first day, he returns to Glen Avery to bring his wife and sons to the Festival.
    • He last visited Metamor Keep during the Fall Festival in 703 CR.
    • As a child, he sometimes accompanied his father on diplomatic visits. The furthest south he has ever traveled is the Iron Mines.
    • Brian is very protective of his people, and looks down on nobles who rule from afar.
    • He has come to the Festival in formal dress, a long-sleeved teal coat. His sleeves are patterned with thin silver-laced triangles and circles, with his family crest, a tree between two mountains, inscribed on his upper left breast.
  • Zhypar Habakkuk: A headmaster of the Writer's Guild, a former merchant, and a kangaroo morph. Charles hasn't trusted him since he started sharing information about the Southlands. He was at the joust watching Charles participate. He meets Garigan and spouts a prediction that someone will die to a shadow without a shadow by the end of the year. He protests against Charles's retirement at the end.
  • Oren: A half-otter man from Hipocc. Like all Hipoccians, he is naturally resistant to magic. He is operating a booth selling ale and Hipoccian brew. He asks Misha to join the Long Scouts on the first day of the festival, and Misha accepts him on the third day, and tells him to begin training in two days.
  • Rickkter: A Kankoran, Charles's enemy, a raccoon morph. He loses in a duel to Yonson, and participates in the one-on-one duels of the Festival, ultimately losing.
    • Phil doesn't trust him, and tells Misha pay an eye on Rickkter at all times. Misha hopes that he can get Rickkter into the Long Scouts, or at least stay as a scout and report directly to him, Phil, or George. Rickkter ultimately rejects the offer, as he prefers to work alone.
    • Rickkter seems to believe the power of the Lightbringers is stronger than Ecclesian priests, particularly at any chance of exorcising Marzac.
    • He has a budding relationship with Kayla.
  • Caroline: Misha's girlfriend. She comes in second place in the archery competition. She helps Misha with his axe-wielding demonstration, and enjoys the evening with Misha, the Averys, Charles, and Kimberly.

Minor characters:

  • Madog: Misha's fox automaton. He has a childlike mind, despite his ancient age. He knows a few things about the Keep's magic, according to Hough. He distrusts Yonson.
    • He is mysteriously absent during the final evening in the Deaf Mule.
  • An elephant glassblower. He last appeared in Equinox Arriveth, but this time has made a glass sculpture of two rat lovers. Charles and Kimberly buy it for 1 gold. Later, on evening of the second day, he keeps the Avery boys from damaging his work.
  • Thalberg: The Duke's Steward. He acts as the joust's Herald, announcing the names of the competing knights.
    • He seems to be amused to think of Charles in the tournament.
  • Wanderer: The court poet. He gives two poems to open the ceremonies.
  • Duke Thomas: Ruler of Metamor Keep. He presides at the head of the jousting ring, together with Thalberg, Yonson, Wanderer, and Lord Avery.
  • Sir Breyden: A knight in the tournament, a child morph. He is Saulius's first opponent. He and his squire are dressed in a diamond pattern, in blue and gray.
    • His squire, Henry, is also a child morph.
  • Christopher: A tutor of magic. He is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, but is able to attend the joust with Lurene.
  • Lurene: Chris's ward. She watches the joust with Christopher.
    • Her father dealt with many lands, but has never heard of Marzac.
  • Angela Avery: Brian Avery's wife, a squirrel morph. She arrives with her two sons on the evening of the first day of the festival, and is present with
  • Christopher Avery and Darien Avery: Brian Avery's two twin boys, both squirrel morphs. They tussle each other so much, Brian has to keep a close eye on them to keep them out of trouble.
    • They each receive a clay bowl from the potter.
  • Phil: Ruler of Lorland, a headmaster of the Writer's Guild, and Head of Intelligence, a rabbit morph. His severe injuries during the Battle of the Three Gates have brought out stronger instincts than most Keepers.
  • Molvere: A knight, a weasel morph Lorland. He is Saulius's second opponent.
  • Jenn: Andre's wife. She and Andre watch Misha's axe-wielding. demonstration
  • A potter, a blonde female gendermorph. She gives the Avery boys two clay bowls with their initials.
  • Craig: A Long Scout, a close friend of Misha's, a prairie dog morph. He watches Oren's booth while Misha accepts Oren into the Long Scouts.
  • Kayla: Rickkter's girlfriend, a skunk morph.

Cameo:

  • Will Hardy: The Keep jeweler, Misha's business partner for Fadger Clocks, and Caroline's father, a badger morph.
  • A family of six from Karthia, with two parents, two sons, and two daughters. They spend nearly an hour at Misha's booth.
  • Dan D'Alimonte: A gardener at the Keep, a grasshopper morph with a missing arm. Here, he officiates the jousts.
  • Donnie: The bartender of the Deaf Mule.
  • Hough: The Ecclesian priest of Metamor Keep, a child morph.
    • He sits in the Duke's box for the joust, wearing a green cassock.
    • He is close friends with Madog.
  • Dorl: Molvere's squire, a weasel morph from Lorland.
  • A woman who steals Garigan's money bag. She knows who Charles is and that he is one of the jousters.
  • A male child morph who is Saulius's third opponent in the tournament, coming in second place in the small division.
  • Copernicus: A lizard morph who plays pool at the Deaf Mule.
  • Legier: An animal morph who was Andre's squire for most of the tournament. In the last match in his size category, his leg was twisted, and he sat out in the final round against Saulius.
  • Devon Erthshade: The Keep jester. He is seen entertaining the Deaf Mule during the last evening of the Summer Festival, pulling coins out of children's ears, and singing ribald songs to the patrons.
  • Scratch: A tiger morph. He performs after Devon, juggling knives for the crowd.

Important mention:

  • Hector: A sculptor and a rat morph.
  • Bryan: A scientist and inventor of the Keep. He built Chris's wheelchair.
  • Elizabeth: Misha's sister, a fourth circle Mage of the Order of the Star, the largest mage's guild in the north.
  • Tallis: A writer in the Writer's Guild. He becomes assistant headmaster of the Writer's Guild, following Matthias's retirement.
  • Donna: An archer who won the archery contest, beating Caroline. She is a female gendermorph, and a Long Scout.

Referenced:

  • Fox Cutter: The librarian whom Chris works for.
  • Pascal: The Keep alchemist. She strengthened Chris's softwood wheelchair.
  • Loriod: A deceased lord of the valley, who burned all of the Southlands books in the library.
  • Lars: The brewer and owner of a bar in Glen Avery.
  • George: The captain of the patrols.
  • Kee: The Keep messenger.
  • Mrs Levins: A piemaker at Glen Avery.
  • Brian Avery's father and mother are both deceased; it is implied that his mother died before his father.
  • Angus: Garigan's superior officer at Glen Avery.
  • Shelley: A friend of Garigan's at Glen Avery.
  • Channing: A goose morph, the former headmaster of the Writer's Guild, now replaced by Zhypar.

Story Connections

  • Playing with Fire covered Phil's injuries during the Battle of the Three Gates.
  • Keeping the Lamp Lit featured the burning of the Southlands books, and most of the information Matthias shared with Phil on the Sondeckis.
  • The fight in Ward between Christopher and Lurene's father happened two months ago, in late April.
  • Declarations of Allegiance covers the battle of Mount Nuln, the city of Glen Avery, and Garigan's first lesson with Charles.
  • Picnic covered Misha's invitation to Charles to join the Long Scouts.
  • Diplomacy covered Charles's distrust of Marzac and Yonson, and Charles's acceptance of Misha's invitation.
  • False Winds included Charles's meeting with Yonson and Gornul's injury.

World

Places

  • Karthia: A place.
  • Iron Mines: A place in the Valley, south of Metamor Keep.
    • The mines to the south of Metamor Keep have excavated brightly colored stones, likely as an unintended deposit.
  • Starven: A city to the north.
  • Stealing is virtually unknown in Glen Avery, except for mischievous boys, according to Garigan. The people of Glen Avery share their goods with the people in need.

Societies

  • The Order of the Star is the largest mage's guild in the northern hemisphere.
    • One of its prominent members, Elizabeth, knows that the Sondecki are a small, southern, magic faction, possibly an assassins' guild. The Order does not have much information on the southern magic factions, as the magic is very different, and secret societies are common.
  • As mentioned in Keeping the Lamp Lit, most mages in the Northlands are generalists. Pure specialist mages, such as elemental mages, are rare.
  • There is a book called De'tagne Marquielle, translated as The Taint of Marzac. Zhypar once owned an original copy. Charles is disturbed to know it still exists.
    • Its original author, Helvutien, committed suicide by tearing his eyes out with a serving spoon.

Metamor Keep

  • The curse is said to extend for a half days' ride in all directions from the Keep. Almost every region of the valley is affected.
  • The Summer Festival is held in the fields adjacent to the Keep. Individual merchants' booths are set up next to the castle. Adjoining these booths, in the center of the fields, are the archery fields, a field for one-on-one duels, and a pavillion for the jousting tournament.
  • The side gardens of Metamor Keep, with a terrazzo walkway, contain roses, daffodils, and lilies.
    • There is also a hyacinth blossom in the garden, though they are native to warmer climates, mainly on the southern borders of the Pyralian Kingdoms and the northern edges of the Southlands. It appears that only the flower is there, quite deliberately placed so that it would be noticed.
  • A private bath is available in the Keep, large enough to accomodate the largest morph. It is small, but finely decorated, with marble and fine tile on the walls and floor, granite benches carved with many figures. The door is covered in gold leaf. A boiler sits in the corner for heating the water. The waste water drains to a cistern in the greenhouse.

Points of Interest

  • This is the first appearance of the hyacinth, which will have great significance later on.
  • Hard wood was not available for Chris's wheelchair, only soft wood hardened by Pascal.
  • The power of the Sondeck prevents Sondeckis from breaking their vows. The only time a Sondecki can break them is in order to save lives.
  • Misha estimates that Charles's training will take three to four months.
  • Will keeps a small portrait of the Duke at his Fadger booth.
  • Several ribald songs are mentioned in the Deaf Mule:
    • The Knight in Nightclothes is about men who go to fight in nightclothes.
    • The Three Sailors of Whales is about three drunk men who go to sea and become lost.
    • The Lass from Pallowtry is a bawdy song, detailing a woman's lengthy sexual escapades. It has over 50 verses.
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