The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Grasshoppers, by Dan D'Alimonte

Story name: The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Grasshoppers
Author: Dan D'Alimonte

Location: Metamor Keep, Carreas
Date: Spring 706 CR

Overview

Dan must face his past when a messenger from his homeland offers him an invitation to return.

Summary

Dan is startled while working before sunrise by an unfamiliar mouse morph, who compliments him on his garden. That night, the mouse finds him alone at the Deaf Mule and introduces himself as Topo. Dan is startled to learn that the mouse knows his last name, which he has not told anyone at Metamor. Topo explains that he is not a mouse morph at all, but a weremouse. He presents a message from the new Duke of Carreas that Mechellos Carras, the man responsible for Dan's exile, has died, and that the new Duke Anteno Carras has given Dan father an apology and a pension, and offered Dan himself a return to his family seat as Steward of Lands.

Dan remembers that his family had served the Duke for generations as Steward, but twenty years ago, his family had been exiled for his father's refusal to cut down a tree of spiritual import for the Duke Mechellos's throne room. Although he likes Topo, he needs more information to make a decision, and visits the intelligence bureau for information. As he waits for them to respond, Topo continues to visit, explaining that he was a common mouse before a werewolf infected him, and that he only serves Anteno, not the Duchy of Carreas.

After a week, Topo says he must return soon whether or not Dan accepts the offer, and Dan asks him to wait until evening the next day. With the intelligence records, Dan is able to confirm Topo's story, but he still doubts Anteno's motives for making amends. On the appointed evening, Topo arrives in a panic; the curse has struck him, and feathers are slowly replacing his fur. By the next evening, Topo is able to shift between two forms: a kestrel, and his anthropomorphic mouse form with downy kestrel feathers in place of his fur.

Anteno Carras is in his study, reflecting on his work restoring the duchy, and hoping his friend Topo will return soon. He is surprised by a falcon on his tapestry, and alarmed and awestruck when it transforms into Topo. Over mulled ale, he learns that Dan has denied his offer, but would be happy to visit sometime.

Characters

Main Characters:

  • Dan D'Alimonte: A gardener of Metamor Keep — although he prefers to be known as its 'botanist and ecologist'. His family came from a long line of stewards for the Duke of Carreas. Twenty years ago, his father had refused to cut down a sacred pine for Mechello's court; as a result, he and his family were banished from Carreas. Dan broke ties with his past to travel to Metamor Keep, becoming a witness to the Battle of the Three Gates and remaining ever since. He decides to reject the Duke's offer of employment, but keeps open the possibility of visiting Carreas in the future.
    • He has a research lab dedicated to experiments on seeds and plants.
  • Topo: Anteno Carras's messenger and trusted advisor. He is a weremouse, a full mouse during the day and an anthropomorphic mouse at night. In his morph form, he is about four feet tall with brown fur and white belly fur. By the story's end, the Curse changes his were-half to be part-mouse part-kestrel, with feathers instead of fur.

Supporting:

  • Anteno Carras: The new Duke of Carreas and Mechellos's nephew. He is a seasoned traveller, and four years ago visited Metamor Keep. During his travels he befriended the newly transformed Topo, who became his advisor and confidant. 11 months ago, the court named him Duke of Carreas; they underestimated his political acumen, and his crackdown on corrupt local officials won him the support of the people and the enmity of the court. He is Topo's best friend.

Minor characters:

  • A young female AR who works as a desk clerk at the intelligence bureau. She has blonde hair in pigtails.

Cameo:

  • Donnie: Owner of the Deaf Mule. He silently requests Dan to pay off Jack's tab.

Mentioned:

  • Mechellos Carras: The former Duke of Carreas, responsible for Dan's exile. He ruled Carreas harshly for forty years, taxing citizens and abducting them into slavery. He left no heir after his death eleven months ago, leaving the court to appoint his nephew Anteno to avoid a power struggle.
  • Jack deMule: The armour master. Dan is still paying his tab after the events of Alone In the Dark.
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