Metamor Keep -- Snips
By Christian O'kane
"The patrol has confirmed that the feud between the Long Knife and the Ripper tribes continues unabated. My best estimate of casualties is around one hundred and forty dead for each side.
"So far the fighting has been limited to small skirmishes and ambushes, but it does promise to become a full-fledged war in the near future. With our killing of a Ripper sub-chief two days ago the conflict has escalated. It seems Phil's plan to have the Long Knives blamed for the ambush has worked."
Misha put down the pen and flexed his hand to remove the stiffness. He was almost done, just a few more pages and he could send the report off to Phil and the Duke.
Misha turned his head looking for the source of the strange noise, but couldn't find it.
Clink. The noise came again. Then he heard a scraping noise. He swiveled his ears about, trying to locate the sound. It was coming from the workshop. He stood and picked up the dagger that lay on top of the desk.
Moving slowly he approached the door to his workshop. He stepped into the room and looked around. Nothing seemed out of place until his eyes fell on the workbench. It was empty. The automaton was gone! Misha heard that scraping noise behind him. He started to turn around and caught a glimpse of a gray figure as it rushed at him. Something heavy slammed into his back knocking him down and stunning him. He was unconscious before his body hit the floor.
Charles Matthias moved along the hall at a quick pace. He was running late again as usual, too many things to do and not enough time to do them in. He could have just let Kee deliver a message for him but Charles wanted to do this himself. He needed the chance to relax, talk, and share a glass of wine with Misha. He always seemed to have the best wine and the tastiest cheese.
Charles stopped in front of Misha's door, which was standing half open. He knocked loudly on the frame several times, "Hello, Misha. It's Charles, are you there?"
There was no answer, just silence. Charles knocked again, a little harder this time. "Hello. Misha, it's me Charles, are you here?" he asked in a louder voice than before. The rat morph pushed the door all the way open and stuck his head inside.
The bed was empty and neatly made up, Misha's roll top desk was open and there were papers scattered about on it. By the window a planter full of bright flowers livened up the room. Charles smiled, "that has to be Caroline's influence," he thought to himself.
He looked towards the door to the workshop and saw a sight that made his blood run cold. Just barely poking into sight through the doorway was a pair of black paws lying on the flagstones.
Charles rushed over and found Misha sprawled on the floor just inside his workshop. He knelt down next to the fox and checked for a pulse. "Thank Goodness at least you're still alive," he muttered to himself.
The rat heard a whisper of a noise from the doorway and looked up just as a figure rushed at him. He lashed out with both hands and sent his attacker flying back into the other room. There was clattering and a crash from the bedroom as his assailant came to rest.
Crouching low the rat morph went after his attacker. Stepping through the door he looked in the direction the person must have landed.
The bed had been completely smashed to splinters. As he watched the remains shifted, and he got a good look at the person who had attacked both Misha and himself. A large gray metal fox stared at him.
"Madog," Charles said in shock. Gold lined metal ears pricked up at the mention of that name. The automaton Misha had shown Charles had moved slowly, and had repeated the same motions over and over again. It had been just an object, devoid of any real life. The creature staring at him now moved and acted like a living thing. The tailed wagged, the ears swiveled
in all directions and the gold whiskers twitched. Whatever it was, Madog was no simple mechanical toy.
The creature regarded the rat for a moment as if deciding what to do. It shook its head and started to slowly walk towards the door to the hall. Madog seemed to move with a grace and a suppleness that reminded Charles of a real fox, not some clockwork creation. He also saw that it didn't seem to be the slightest bit damaged from the blow the rat had inflicted on it. A blow that would have smashed plate armor hadn't even scratched that gray skin.
"What are you?" Charles asked out loud.
The automaton paused briefly and looked at the confused rat. Those blue eyes seemed to sparkle with life and intelligence. "Not the one," it said in a quiet voice and shook it's head, "not the one."
"HUH? What do you mean, not the one?" the rat asked, confused.
He took a step towards Madog, and the creature bolted for the hall. In an instant it was through the door and out of sight. Charles rushed after it but the metal creation was gone by the time he reached the door.
The writer stood there and tried to decide what to do. He looked back to where Misha was lying. "Mercy first, then battle," he said to himself and quickly ran back to help his vulpine friend.
Rickkter closed the tome he had been looking at and placed it to one side. Picking up another book, he checked the index and started reading. The mage had been up all night doing research on a signet that he had found. So far he hadn't had much luck.
The raccoon morph shifted around in the chair trying to get comfortable. Having a three-foot tail had it problems. He'd only had it for a few days and he was still getting used to it. After a few moments he finally found a position that was comfortable and continued reading. Thankfully the library was empty at this hour of the morning, and he could work in peace.
The mage was partway done with the third page when he realized that this book didn't have what he needed. He let out a tired groan and snapped the book closed. Gathering up the ten books piled on the table he started down one of the aisle of bookshelves. "I'm really going to have to stop with these all-nighters, they're killing me," he mumbled to himself.
As he walked up and down the aisles Rickkter took various books he was carrying and put them back into their proper spots on the shelves. That was the one good thing about these all night sessions. He was really getting to know the library very well. The mage had reached the end of an a row when a gray vulpine head peered around the corner of a bookshelf.
Calmly placing the last two books on an open shelf Rickkter examined his companion. While he hadn't been at the keep very long the raccoon knew this wasn't one of his fellow keepers. He had never seen anything like what he was laying eyes on now.
Using his true sight he could detect all kinds of very powerful magic emanating from it. He tilted his head a little to the side. "What the hell are you?" the morph asked.
Madog didn't answer but just stared at him for a moment. Rickkter started to slowly back away from it. His warrior instincts were telling him something was seriously wrong. Subtle changes in the automaton's stance warned of what was to come.
Rickkter was expecting it, but when the attack came he was caught off guard by the automaton's blinding speed. He brought up his arms in a block a little too slowly and the metal monster slammed full into his chest.
The two fell to the floor together with Madog on top. It's metal teeth went for the morph's throat. The mage hit the automaton in the throat, just behind the jaw, forcing the head up and away from him. A jolt of electricity surged through his body and Rickkter screamed in pain just before he passed out.
Misha awoke to find someone rubbing his back. His whole body seemed to hurt and he had a monstrous headache. He opened his eyes and found he was lying on the floor of his bedroom.
A worried Matthias was looking at him, "How do you feel?" the rat asked.
"Like I've been run over by an elephant," Misha replied wearily. Gathering his strength he sat up. Pain shot up his spine and he yelped.
"Lay down, you need to go easy until Brian Coe can examine you," the rat morph said.
"What happened?" Misha asked.
Charles explained what had happened, about finding the fox sprawled on the floor and being attacked by the automaton.
"It couldn't be Madog, he's harmless," the fox said.
"I know what I saw Misha. How else do you explain that," Charles said and pointed to the smashed bed. "That's where it landed."
The fox closed his eyes and shook his head, "What is that thing? By all laws Madog shouldn't be wandering around attacking people. There was nothing that complex worked into his gearing. He's supposed to do a handful of preprogrammed tricks and that's all," Misha said.
"I don't know what it is either, but that wasn't a preprogrammed trick I saw today. Madog was definitely acting on it's own. That thing knew exactly what it was doing," Charles commented.
"You sent out the alarm?" Misha asked hopefully.
"Yes, by this time the whole keep is up in arms, looking for it," the rat replied.
"Well, that's a good start," the canine commented as Charles helped him to his feet. He looked around on the floor for his dagger but couldn't see it. "Have you see my dagger? I was holding it when Madog jumped me," the fox asked.
Matthias shook his head. "No I didn't see one laying around."
Misha shrugged. "It's probably lying under something. I'll find it later." He moved to a chest and after a few moments of rummaging inside, produced a long sword and a dagger.
"Where do we go now?" Charles asked.
"First we go find George and see what type of search he's started. Then we pay a visit to the armory and get some armor to even the odds against us," came the reply.
The rat morph nodded in agreement.
The two of them got only a short distance when they came upon Rickkter. The new Keeper was stalking the halls dressed in black leather. He was carrying a five-foot long staff, tipped with a two foot long steel blade, called a war staff. On his face was a homicidal expression that could melt stone with just a glance.
"Rickkter! What are you doing?" Misha asked.
"Hunting," came the reply.
"Hunting what?" the fox asked.
"I had a most unpleasant encounter in the library a little while ago," explained Rickkter. "I was attacked by some kind of mechanical creature."
"I wonder who else my little creation has attacked," he mumbled.
"I take that to mean you're to blame for that metal monstrosity," the raccoon asked in a cold voice.
"Yes," the fox replied and explained the story to him.
"Congratulations, you're the father of a brutal killing machine," Rickkter said sarcastically when the fox had finished.
Misha glared at the raccoon but didn't say anything.
"Instead of making stupid comments why don't you come up with a way to kill this thing," Matthias said in a low voice.
Rickkter looked at the rat for a moment before speaking, "Killing it won't be easy. This creature is very, very powerful."
"Just how powerful is it?" the rat asked.
"Powerful enough to kill any one of us in single combat," the raccoon replied.
Misha closed his eyes and shivered. "What have I done?"
Matthias put his arm around the fox, "Don't blame yourself. This trap was set by a master mage."
"Any idea who that mage was?" Rickkter asked.
"I know his name, Vernosa. I think he was a minor noble in the area back in the three forties," the vulpine answered.
"That's all? I prefer to know my enemies," the raccoon said.
"This enemy has been dead for over three hundred years, Rick," Misha explained.
"It doesn't matter who created Madog," Matthias said. "We have to stop it."
"First we have to find him, and just wandering around the keep hoping to run into him won't work. There are several thousand rooms in the Keep, and countless miles of corridors and halls. Not to mention the fact that all of them keep moving around and changing," the fox commented.
Matthias spoke first, "It kept saying 'not the one'. Madog is after one person in particular. Obviously none of us is the real target or it wouldn't have left any of us alive."
"But who is Madog after?" Rickkter asked. "I can think of a dozen people it might have been ordered to kill. A rival wizard, an ex-lover, a political enemy."
Misha thought for a moment before answering. "Vernosa was a minor nobleman here in the pass. He tried to set himself up in his own little kingdom, so we know he had had aspirations of becoming a king. Too much effort went into creating Madog to waste him on an old lover. He was intended to kill some very important and well protected nobleman. Someone who stood in Vernosa's way," Misha commented.
"The Duke. Madog is after the Duke," Misha said in a quiet voice.
"You can't be sure of that," Charles countered.
"Oh yes I can," the fox countered. "In 341 the old duke died leaving no legitimate heirs, only a son by a maid. That son became Duke by killing his chief rival in a duel and exiling the rest. If he had died before having an heir Metamor would have been up for grabs."
"Makes sense. Kill the duke and claim the throne for your self. I've seen it happen before," the warrior mage commented.
"I know how to catch him," the scout said. "We're going to set a trap for my metal friend. We know who he's going to come after. All we have to do is wait, and he'll come to us." he said.
"You want to use the Duke as bait?" Charles asked in shock.
The fox nodded.
Rickkter laughed, "Sounds like fun."
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