Metamor Keep -- First
By Christian O'kane & Wolf
The carriage jolted and bumped it's way along the pavement. From its window the sole passenger could see Metamor Keep. Its tall, dark, brooding shadow loomed over everything, including the town sheltering below.
The gatehouse leading to that town looked battered and worn. The passenger noted that mixed in among the older stone blocks were newer ones, that marked a recent rebuilding. In spite of white washing, the carriage rider could still see the blackened scorch marks left from the siege of seven years ago. The carriage jolted to a halt in front of the gates.
The figure that stepped out of the carriage was six feet tall and dressed in full plate mail armor that was colored black except for the silver decorations inlayed into the breastplate. The helmet covered its wearer's face entirely. The face plate was a stylize rendition of a human face, complete with nose and mouth.
A black gauntlet covered hand extended toward the gate sergeant. In it was an envelope. Upon reading the letter inside the woman nodded, "good morning Lord Holivar. Misha is expecting you. You'll find the Jolly Collie in the middle of the town square. I'll send word to Misha that you've arrived." The armored figure of Lord Holivar nodded and returned to his seat in the carriage. Without any further inspection the carriage rolled through the gates into the town.
The three story wooden building sat on the northern side of the main square. The sign hanging over the entrance had a had a picture of a brown, orange, and white dog on a green background. The words below that read "Jolly Collie." Misha and Madog stopped below that sign.
"Now remember what I told you Madog," Misha said to the automaton.
"Yes Papa," Madog answered.
Stepping through the door the two entered the inn. The main room was quiet, only a handful of people were scattered around. Misha knew that things wouldn't pickup until later in the week, when a caravan arrived. Then this empty room would be filled with drinking, laughing and relaxing guards and teamsters.
A tall, middle aged woman came rushing up to the fox and the automaton. "Misha, I'm glad you're here," she said.
"Jimmy, how are things going? Has Holivar arrived?" Misha asked.
"He arrived this morning," The woman explained. "A very strange person. He had only a single trunk for luggage and he hasn't left his room since, not even for meals."
"Anything else happen?" Misha asked.
Jimmy shook her head, "no."
"All right, thanks," the fox said and started for the steps. He didn't have to ask what room his visitor was in, that fact had been prearranged. It was the room at the end of the hall. Flanked on either side by rooms, there was only one window and that opened onto an enclosed courtyard. It was a difficult room to escape from unseen.
Misha rapped three times on the door. "Entrée," a voice said from the other side.
The space beyond the door was brightly lit. The shades had been pulled back and light flooded the room. At first Misha couldn't find Holivar, but then there was movement from a shadowed corner, far from the window and the light.
"Good afternoon Sir," Misha said to the figure.
The figure stood up and moved forward. Misha stood a little over five and a half feet tall, and yet this figure towered over him. A voluminous red robe covered the entire body, even the face was covered with a scarf of the same color. The thing Misha noticed most about the robe was that it was covered by gold and silver symbols that he didn't recognize.
The tall figure gave a short bow. "Good afternoon," it said in a strangely emotionless voice.
The fox gave a low, formal bow. "My name is Misha Brightleaf. Do I have the honor of addressing Lord Holivar?"
"You do indeed Sir," came that strange voice. "Is Madog with you?" Holivar asked with a touch of emotion in his voice for the first time.
The automaton peered from around Misha's legs and looked up at the nobleman. "Greetings and Felicitations Sir. It is a great pleasure to meet you," he said in a strangely formal tone.
The robed mage reached down and lightly touched Madog on the neck. Misha noticed that the man was wearing red cloth gloves, covered with the same symbols as the robes. "Fascinating. He looks just like the drawing you sent. The styling on it doesn't look to be Suielman, although it does bear a slight resemblance."
"Much of the outer skin has been replaced, either by Vernosa or myself. I'm afraid that laying buried for over one hundred and fifty years took its toll," Misha explained.
"The magic involved has survived intact." The mage commented with his hand still on Madog's head.
"I'll have to take your word on that. My knowledge of magic is very limited," Misha said.
The robed figure seemed surprised at that comment. "You are not a mage?"
The fox morph shook his head. "No sir, I'm a scout here at the keep, automatons are just a hobby. I wish I had more time to study the subject though."
The mage straightened up relinquishing his contact with Madog and looked at Misha. "A patarini?" the figure chuckled; a low, cold sound. "I assumed you were a mage, since you were able to repair the damage done to him. Have you done much research on the magic involved? This is an important discovery."
"I agree, but unfortunately Nasoj leaves us all here at Metamor with little time for research."
"Nasoj?" The mage asked.
"Nasoj is the man responsible for the curse here at the Keep. He's been trying to take Metamor for almost a decade," Misha explained. "He's devoted his existence to that task. He's obsessed with it."
"Not, obsessed," Holivar replied. "He's dedicated himself to a task and he won't let anything stand in his way. I find that kind of single-minded determination admirable."
"It may be admirable to you, but I've spent the last seven years of my life fighting that monster. He's killed a lot of my friends."
"Humans are frail creatures of flesh and blood, and all must eventually die," the mage retorted cryptically.
"Well, I'm afraid I have duty tonight, so we must be going." Misha said.
"When can I begin my detailed examination? Tomorrow morning perhaps?" the robed figure answered.
"That sounds all right with me. Present yourself at the outer gate of the Keep tomorrow morning at sunrise. I'll be waiting for you."
The red figure nodded. "That is most satisfactory. I can use the evening to prepare. My thanks for coming this evening Sir Brightleaf."
Misha recognized a dismissal when he heard it. With a final bow, the fox morph and the automaton departed the room and left its strange occupant alone.
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