A Homecoming

by Oberon Snowcat

As soon as I walked into the main doors of the Long House I felt relieved to be home. Now the guards who watched the main doors knew by my facial markings, and odour though I didn’t really have much of an odour. I now wore the markings of a junior officer in the Long Scouts and I was pleased with myself. I quickly made my way to the door to my apartment. When I opened the door though I was stunned by what I saw. Instead of my normal bedroom and living area I saw a rather large living room with a good sized oak desk in one corner. Behind the desk and beside the desk were a series of bookshelves. I the corner of the room opposite the desk was a small sink and iron stove. In between both areas was a large stone fireplace; on the mantel was my clan insignia done tastefully on a hanging shield. The shield was in fact, the very same item that I had won in the spring Equinox Festival. On one side of the room there was a single door, which I knew still lead to my forge, but on the other side of the room there were three doors, which had never been there before. From behind me I heard Misha say

“Why don’t you go on into your room and open those doors and see what is inside?”

“Misha my room only had one door in it when I left for our patrol two weeks ago.”

“Kyia has obviously seen fit to give you a few additions. So GO and check things out. Standing around in the hall is not going to change anything now.”

I stepped into my newly enlarged room and made my way towards the nearest of the three doors. “Why do I need this much space anyways?”

“Your life is changing my friend. So your home has to change as well. Now why don’t you try those doors? They aren’t booby trapped.”

I opened the door to the room that I was standing in front of and stepped into the room beyond. The whole room was furnished in a manner that led me to believe that the intended occupant of the room was a child. In the far corner of the room there was a small bed that was only four feet long. The bed had wooden rails that seemed to very intricately carved. There were three large cabinets and one small chest in the room. The largest of the cabinets had a padded top and was covered in various supplies.

“Now who would could this small, child sized bed be for?” Misha kidded.

“Do you think that your Keep has a motive for this?”

“Kyia ALWAYS has a motive behind what she does. And she is usually three steps ahead of us.”

I left the child’s room and went to the door that was the furthest from the front door and opened it and walked into the room. This room was much larger than the child’s room and was furnished in an opulent manner, befitting my former rank as a Clanlord.

“Nice! Kyia has really given you a nice place to curl up at night!”

“I don’t really need a bed this big Misha.” I said pointing to the large four-poster bed in the centre of the room.

“Maybe she doesn’t intend you to have that bed alone. Perhaps she sees you sharing it in the not too distant future.”

“She obviously has plans for me.” I told Misha as I walked out of the bedroom and went over and opened the third door. Behind that door there was a small room with a single latrine in it.

“Never mess with a lady. Women I’ve discovered have a vast conspiracy out there against all of us males.”

I chuckled in a knowing manner before I pointed out. “I can tell you that much Misha I’ve seen evidence to confirm it in my homeland. And my experience in the Midlands has done little to negate that.”

Misha laughed. “The great female conspiracy!”

“Sit down,” I gestured to one of the three large chairs in front of the fireplace. “Since we just back from a mission we should be able to have a drink.” I went over to the sideboard by the fireplace and opened the door to find that there were several crystal decanters full of various liquids. I pulled one of the decanters from the cabinet and looked at it before I pulled the stopper free and sniffed the contents. My nose instantly confirmed my initial judgement that the wine was Kelmar in origin. In fact I recognized the fact that this was anything but ordinary wine. It was a special wine that only the highest members of Kelmar society could afford.

Misha grinned as he eased himself down into one of the leather chairs. “A tiger after my own heart! What kind of wine is that?” He asked pointing at the crystal decanter that I was holding in my hand.

“It appears that Kyia has outdone herself. This is Kelmar wine, and it is no ordinary wine, it is Glan Ver’dansk, our most expensive and exclusive wine. How in the world did she manage to get her hands on this stuff?”

“There is no telling exactly what Kyia has stashed away in various places in the Keep. After all she is many millennia old.”

I nodded as poured two goblets of the red wine before I handed one of them to Misha and sat down. “Tell me what you think of this wine Misha.”

Misha sipped the wine from his goblet a few times. “Nice. A powerful taste, but not overpowering!”

“Usually this wine costs more than five hundred Imperial Krowns, but here I couldn’t even begin to calculate its value.”

Misha shrugged. “No telling how much that would cost here if you put it out on the open market. The reason why is because it is an exquisite wine and it is so far from where it was made.”

I nodded and sipped my own wine and let my thoughts wander. Finally I looked over at Misha and asked “So what humiliating things are your people planning to do to me now that I am a Long? Don’t tell me that you don’t do anything like that because I know better.”

“Well everyone who becomes a Long must have one final initiation. It’s an honoured tradition!”

My ears dipped down on my head a little. “I understand that a little hazing is to be expected on joining an elite group of warriors. But please show me a little respect when you do your little ritual.”

Misha nodded his head stood up and came over and gave me a hug. “You made it to the Longs. We are all equals here my friend. We honour and respect each other. But we do occasionally like to have some fun.”

“As long as you understand that fact everything should be ok. Oh and Misha I hope that you are going to be able to understand my reports.”

“You are a Long Scout Oberon, a member of a small and VERY exclusive group. We all respect and take care of each other. And what is wrong with your reports? They just have to be legible, not fancy.”

“Have you ever had to read my writing in common tongue?”

“It couldn’t be worse than Meredith’s handwriting. His writing looks like chicken scratches.”

I nodded finished my goblet of wine before I stood up and walked over to my desk and picked up one of my old reports. I brought it over to him and handed to him. “What do you think of that?”

He looked at the document in his hands and flipped through it for several minutes before he put it down. “Ok,” he said slowly. “Maybe you should get someone to write your reports for you.

“What Misha don’t you like my handwriting?”

“I can read it, barely, but I doubt that anyone else can.”

“I am trying to improve my skills at writing I common, but often times I find myself writing your letters like I am still back in my homeland.”

“Good writing takes time. It just has to be legible.”

I nodded my head before I asked him. “When am I going to have to go out on patrol again?”

“Soon enough. Though I still have to assign you to a patrol. But you probably will be going out on patrol within week or two.”

“Well that should give me some time to do some work in my forge.”

“You should also have to think about little Guy DeHarancourt,” Misha added. “You need to spend some time with him.”

“I still don’t really know what to do about that situation. Can you perhaps give me a little advice on how to remedy the situation.”

“Me? I’ve been a bachelor until this spring. But you should clear this matter up as quickly as possible. Dragging the matter out will only confuse him more, the only viable solution that I can see is for you to adopt him.”

“Well you are lucky in that element Misha. I have yet to find myself a girl that I can attach myself to like you have attached yourself to Caroline.”

“Oh and what of Lady Belancourt? The last time that I saw the two of you together you guys seemed to be getting along fairly well.”

I felt my face, nose pad, and ears heat up as, with some embarrassment, changed the subject. “If I do adopt Guy will you be able to help me out?”

“Of course! All we Longs stick together. And you’re not the only one with child in your care.”

“I understand that Misha but is there any other Long here who is taking care of a child by him, or herself?”

“No. But we do have a baby-sitting group where we have some of our members who have spouses or partners take care of the children of our members of those who are out on patrol. I’ll talk to Lisa about getting you some help on that.”

I stood up, removed most of my equipment and weapons before I asked, “Will you come with me so that we can get all of this arranged now?”

“Sure! All we need to do is find Lisa. She hasn’t let losing her arm slow her down.”

I pulled on one of my black cloaks and opened the front door and held out my arm and waited for Misha to exit the room. “I guess that she was a great warrior before she lost her arm?”

“She is still a good fighter,” Misha replied as he walked out of my room and into the hall. “It’s only a little harder for her with only one arm.”

As we walked through the Long House Tcukendra joined us and took up station on my left side. We walked down the huge hall towards on the supply section.

“Lisa should be around somewhere. I’ve had her working with the supplies lately. At least till she is ready to go back on patrol.”

I nodded my head. “Who do you think you are going to assign to be my partner out there north of the Keep?”

“I am thinking of putting you on Laura’s team. She lost two people during the Yule attack. Joy and HIM!” He said with a distinct tone of anger in his voice. “That damn traitor.”

I felt my eyes narrow, my ears flattened against my skull, and I growled “I LOATHE traitors! After all a traitor is the reason why I am here at the Keep now.”

Misha didn’t answer but he was oddly silent for a long moment. When he spoke once more his voice was soft. “I thought he was my friend and he tried to kill us all.”

“I know what you mean Misha. I’ve seen a friend turn into an enemy traitor as well. The terrible thing is that I will never be able to get my revenge. My enemy still remains across the sea in my homeland.”

“We got our revenge. He died the bloody and violent death that he deserved. But that will never bring back all of those people that he killed.”

I nodded my head and looked down at the floor as we walked down the hall. After a few more minutes we came to one of the doors in the Long House. It was set into the right hand side of the hall.

“This is Lisa’s place.”

“Sir I’ll let you do the talking because you know her and I don’t.”

Misha knocked hard on the door and waited before he said, “I must warn you – she has two kids. Two loud and busy kids.”

“Well that is something that I have a lot of experience with back home more than thirty years ago. If that doesn’t count then my experience in the next little while will count.”

The door swung open to reveal a young girl who appeared to be roughly fourteen years old. The most obvious thing that I noticed was the fact that she was missing most of her right arm below her elbow.

I bowed my head to the girl and stepped back to allow Misha to talk to her.

“Lisa! I’m glad we found you!” Misha said. “Oberon here is seems has a small problem and we were hoping that you could help deal with.”

“Hello my Lady.” I said and bowed my head to her.

She bowed in returned my bow. “Good to see you!” She stepped back in her apartment. “Come in! Both of you are always welcome here.”

I waited until Misha stepped through the door before I followed him into the apartment.

The main room in the apartment was fairly large and with a fireplace in one corner and the floor was liberally scattered with numerous toys. “Please forgive the mess, but I haven’t really had the chance to clean up.”

My ears twitched in amusement at her pronouncement. “I’ve seen a lot of things like this before my Lady. My sister’s home used to like this many years ago.”

Lisa smiled broadly. “Thank you. I have always said that a messy home is a happy home. Now what can I help you with.”

“Well I have a small problem…”

“That is an understatement Lisa, he has a big problem. It concerns a certain small young little problem.” Misha said.

“Are you talking about little Guy?” Lisa asked. “I’d heard that you had been spending a lot of time with him Oberon.”

“I do like to spend time with him. After all he was the one who helped me regain myself. Otherwise I would still be out there in the lands north of Keep still killing every lutin that I could get my claws on.”

Lisa nodded in apparent understanding. “I understand, but now you need help caring for him?”

“Yes I do. After all I am only one man and I can only do so much. Especially when I have to go out on duty.”

“We do have a little baby sitting group going among the Long Scouts. You’re welcome to join us. The only requirement is that when you are at the Keep you take your turn caring for the kids.”

“That I can do Lisa. Though II will have to figure out what to do when I want to do some work in my forge.”

“We’ll work it out. We all have crazy schedules but it all works out in the end.”

I nodded my head and asked her, “Do you want me to bring him by later so that you can see him?”

“Of course! Meredith and the kids are coming over later. We can have you two meet everyone all at the same time.”

“Ok. I guess that I will see you late.”

“Oh! And you can come by around six-o-clock tonight and we’ll all be here.” She added.

I nodded my head and walked out of the room and said, “Well all that I really have to do now is to collect Guy and then head up to the registrar’s office to get all of the paperwork drawn up.”

Misha nodded his head. “Now comes the hard part! The endless paperwork!”

I quickly made my way, with Misha and Tcukendra beside me, to Father Hough’s apartment. When I opened the door a small voice shouted out in delight.

Papa back!”

Misha yipped with laughter. “You’ve been missed!” he said as we stepped into the room.

Guy came tearing into the room and flung himself up to me with considerable agility. I managed to catch him in my arms and held him close. As he returned the hug Father Hough came into the room.

Misha winced. “I know that you would never drop him Oberon, but that still makes me wince seeing him jump up like that. He does really enjoy it!”

I grinned as Guy snuggled up against my chest and began to purr.

“At last!” Father Hough said cheerfully. “Guy has been telling me all day how his Papa was come home! He’s been driving me crazy all day!”

I raised an eyebrow and cocked my left ear forwards. “Oh how in the world did he know that?”

Hough shrugged his small shoulders. “I’ve no idea, but for some reason he did know!”

“Papa no go ‘way!” Guy uttered from his position in my arms.

I looked at Hough and said, “Father Hough I have done some thinking about this situation over the past couple weeks while I have been on patrol and I have resolved to get this situation resolved for good.”

“That’s great. When are you going to adopt him?”

“Oh I was thinking about getting all of that taken care of now, or as soon as I can. I have the time, and the space now to be able to devote some effort to caring for him.”

“Then in that case we should go and speak with Sindia. She is the Duke’s Official Scribe.”

I nodded my head. “Where is she to be found? And how long will it take for us to move all of Guy’s stuff into my own apartment in the Long House.”

Hough shook his head. Kyia will move all of his stuff for you. By the time you return to your apartment all his stuff will be in its proper places. And as for Sindia, she has her offices near the Duke’s own offices.”

“Do you mind coming with me so that we can get all of this sorted out now Father Hough.”

“Of course!” Hough said, “Let’s go now.”

“I take it that you want to get him out of your hair now rather than later?”

“Though I have enjoyed taking care of him I will have to admit that taking care of little Guy has been a big challenge for me. He never seems to relax or even slow down!”

“Doesn’t he ever take a nap?”

“He does nap, but his naps never seem to last very long! Definitely not long enough for me!”

I chuckled lightly before I pointed out, “Well us felines do tend to have a lot of energy when we are at his stage of development.”

“All children his age seem to have boundless energy.” Misha commented.

The small feline child in my arms slowly stopped purring and now it appeared that he had fallen asleep.

“We’d best while he is asleep.” Hough commented. “At least he sleeps fairly soundly when he does sleep.”

I smiled slightly, more so with my ears, whiskers, and tail, then with my mouth. “That is always the way with children.”

“I suggest we heard over to Sindia’s office while Guy is asleep.”

“Certainly Father Hough. We should take this chance while we have it.”

“Good!” Hough said before he slowly herded us out of his rooms and into the hall. A short time later we arrived outside one of the offices in the Duke’s Palace. On the front of the door was an engraved plaque with the words “Duke’s Scribe” engraved in it.

Misha opened the door to reveal a leopard morph seated behind a large, ornate, and old wooden desk. “Hello Sindia. We have business with you.”

I followed Misha; the office was rather crowded with the five of us, not counting the leopard morph behind the desk.

The leopard nodded her head. “All right. What are you all here for?” she asked.

I paused for a moment and then gestured one of my hands to indicate to Guy, who was still asleep in my arms. “I was hoping to alter the care arrangement concerning this child.”

“How so? Are you the child’s parent?” She asked.

“This child has no parents in the Keep. He is an animalistic AR who has lost all traces of who he used to be. He was placed in the care of Father Hough by the Duke himself, however the child has attached himself to me, and not the good Father.”

“I remember the case. I was wondering what became of him in the end. So you wish to adopt the child as your own now?” She asked me.

“Yes I do ma’am though I believe that his name is no longer suitable for what he is now. His name is that of a Knight of the Ecclesia, but now he is just a child who is going to be my son.”

The leopard nodded her head. “Fair enough. His old life is gone. Do you have a new name in mind for him right now?”

“Give me a moment.” I told her before I closed my eyes and let my spirit seek out the spirit of the child in my arms. Finally after a few moments I opened my eyes and slowly said, “His new name is Garen Naharél.”

The leopard wrote down what I had said in a large book that was resting on her desk. “And what is your name?” she asked me. “And those of your witnesses?”

“My full name is Adòn Naharél Sahana’Haudorn and my witnesses are Father Hough and Misha Brightleaf.

The leopard paused at my name before she wrote the information down in her book. After a few moments she finished writing before she looked up “I need all of you to sign at the bottom of the page.” With that said she turned the book on the desk so that I could sign my name in it.

I signed the book with my characteristic angular Kelmar runes before I passed it off to Misha.

Misha signed the book and then passed the pen to Father Hough who quickly signed his name with a flourish.

Once all the signatures had been properly logged in the book Sindia took the book back and pressed a large wax seal onto the bottom of the page.

“Congratulations Oberon. You are now this child’s father,” she said.

From my arms a sleepy voice purred, “Papa” As if to seal my fate for good.

Misha patted me on the back. “Congratulations Oberon.”

I laughed at myself ruefully for a moment. “Now what have I gotten myself into?”

Misha laughed. “You’re about to find out!”

After a few moments of deep thought I opened my eyes and looked down at Garen who looked right back at with his bright green eyes. The only thing that I saw coming from his eyes was the love of a child for his parent. “Well in any case that really doesn’t matter now, since I have this child to care for now. What do you think we should do now my friend?”

“First you need to get your son home and show him his new home. Then we can have a small celebration of your new status as both a Long Scout and a Father.” Misha suggested.

“Ok Misha that sounds like a good plan to me. When you come by do you mind bringing along a few friends like George, Finbar, Danielle, and Caroline?”

“All right! Sounds like a plan to me. We all could use a little relaxation and celebration.” Misha bowed to the leopard behind the desk. “Thank you Sindia.” He said before we all filed out of the office.

I quickly made my way back to my apartment in the Long House.

A few minutes after I reached the room Garen woke up fully and began to clamour for something to eat. I checked the small kitchen area of the main room and located a bottle for him to eat for a snack. I didn’t want to spoil his appetite for supper later on in the afternoon. He lay on the couch by the fireplace sucking up his snack when there was a knock on the door.

I quickly opened the door and found George and Finbar standing there in the hallway. “Hello there George, Finbar. How are you doing today?”

As I asked that question I felt Garen clutch at the fur of my leg. “Who they Papa?”

“Hello Garen!” Finbar said cheerfully. “We are friends of your father.”

I crouched down and picked up Garen and said as I stood up again. “Come on in. I have a lot to show you.”

“Well you don’t expect me to try and raise a child in a broom closet do you?” I asked rhetorically.

“How has life been treating you lately George?”

George nodded his head before he told me “My life hasn’t been as exciting as yours. Thankfully!”

“Well I guess I just have a little more time to make my life interesting.” I turned to look at Finbar handed him a goblet of red wine. “How are you holding up today Finbar?”

“I’m doing well. I heard from Misha that you finally adopted little Guy today and changed his name.” He said before he took the goblet of wine and took a sip.

“Well I had to do something about his name, his old name was no longer suitable for what he has become.” I told him before I walked over to one of the chairs and sat down. “Well what do you think of this place Finbar?”

“Very nice!” The ferret answered looking around the room “You really have a fine place here!”

“You should see the two bedrooms!”

“Well?” he asked. “When do we get the full tour?”

“As soon as the rest of the guest get here.” As soon as I finished saying that there was another knock on the door. I got up, placed Garen on the chair and then walked over and opened the door to reveal Misha, Caroline and Danielle standing there in the hallway.”

“Hello!” Caroline cheerfully said from where she was standing in the hallway beside Misha. “I love this new place of yours Oberon.”

“Well are you guys going to stand around out there in the hallway, or are you going to come into the room?”

The group filed into the room. “Congratulations on little Garen.” Caroline said before she gave me a hug.

I hugged Caroline back and asked everyone. “Well do you all want to see the apartment now?”

“YES!” Finbar said from where he was sitting in the corner by the fireplace. “We all want to see the place!”

I led them all into Garen’s new room and showed them all of the fixtures in the room.

“Nice!” Danielle said. “Your son has a fine room.”

“I think so as well. He should enjoy this room, or at least I hope he does.” At that moment Garen came into the room and looked up at me. “Papa me aw wet!”

“Uh oh!” Misha and Finbar said at the same time as they stepped away from me.

I put up my hands in a gesture of helplessness and said, “I guess that I have to take care of this for a moment. I sure hope that he grows out of this at some point in time.”

George just smiled. “And Misha wonders why I never got married.”

“Well if you will excuse me for a few minutes I have to take care of this right now before he begins to whine at me.”

“Do you need any assistance?” Caroline asked me. “I know that this is a new experience for you.”

“I have…”

“Changing a person with fur is a lot different than changing a normal human baby,” Danielle said.

“All that fur changes things.” Caroline added.

I shrugged my shoulders, picked up Garen and deposited him on the padded cabinet top. He giggled a little as I pulled off his small breeches.

“He seems to think that this is all a game,” Caroline says smiling at Garen as his tail wiggled in the air.

I pulled off the oilcloth protector, undid the pins, and pulled off the wet garment before I began to clean off his skin and fur. Thankfully Father Hough had trimmed the fur where Garen’s diaper was located to make cleaning up a little easier. “This part is always a pain in the tail.”

“This is the messy part!” Caroline said and wrinkled her nose at the smell of urine in the air.

“At least this one isn’t dirty! Now those are a really serious pain in tail.”

“They all smell terrible,” Caroline answered. “Having the sensitive nose of an animal does have its down side sometimes.”

“You can say that again Caroline.” I replied as I finished cleaning off Garen’s bottom and began looking around for the diaper cream.

“Be lavish with the cream,” Danielle added. “It will help prevent rash and chaffing.”

“I intend to as soon as I find IT!” I replied as I sent my gaze a little further afield.

Caroline chuckled and pointed to a bottle that was resting next to my left hand at the top of the cabinet.

I rolled my eyes at my own foolishness before I grabbed the bottle of cream and began to apply a liberal coat of the cool substance on my son.

Garen giggled again and the tip of his tail wiggled to indicate his amusement at what I was doing.

“I think that the kid is the smart one in this family,” Caroline joked before she laughed

“From what I can tell from here it looks like he enjoys this.” I told her as I completed the procedure and replaced Garen’s breeches.

“As far as I can tell he enjoys everything. Like most children his age he sees only the humour and delight it everything that he sees and experiences.” Danielle commented.

As I put Garen back down onto his feet I looked over at the two ladies before I asked, “Do you think that he’ll ever grow up again?”

Caroline shrugged. “There is no telling what will happen him at this point in time. Though right now he is happy and that is really all that matters.”

“I guess you are right Caroline. Right now for him simply being happy is a good thing. After all, he has seen far too much death and violence in his life already.”

Caroline nodded in understanding. “We all have.” She said. “I think that we all have.”

I nodded my head before I went back into the living room where the three men were sitting in the two chairs and the couch waiting for us to return from the odious job of changing my son’s bottom.

Misha looked over me “Everyone all clean and smelling nice?” he asked from where he was standing, by the door to my forge on the opposite side of the room from Garen’s door.

I nodded my head and looked at him and asked, “Did you guys want to see my own room?”

“If you don’t mind,” Caroline said. “I’m curious as to what it’s like.”

I opened the door to the bedroom and stepped inside to reveal it to my friends.

They all looked around the room for a few minutes taking in the ornate architecture and furniture.

“Nice! But why do you have such a large bed?” Caroline asked. “It seems overly large.”

“That is what I said to Misha when I first saw it.”

“I think that Kyia knows that you have a girlfriend!” The female otter suggested.

“I’m not quite ready to share an apartment with her yet. In time that may come but not right now.”

Danielle nodded. “Good things take time to grow properly.”

I nodded my head knowingly. “My sister courted her husband for thirty-one years before they married.”

“Thirty years!” Caroline said. “And I thought a year was too long for Misha to wait to ask the question.”

“We Kelmar tend to take our time when it comes to courtship.”

Both females laughed. “So we see.” Caroline said cheerfully

I showed them a few more features before I went back into the living room and sat down in one of the chairs in front of the fireplace and sipped some wine from a goblet that I had poured for myself.

As I sipped my wine from the goblet I looked up at my clock, which was now resting on the mantelpiece. My ears dropped and I shook my head before I stood up. “I am sorry if I have to rush you guys but I am a little late for dinner at Lisa’s place.”

“That won’t be a problem.” Misha said. “We can continue this little party over in my apartment!”

I nodded and went over, picked up Garen before I opened the front door to let them all out. Once they were all in the hallway I apologized again and headed off down the hall.

A few minutes later I arrived outside of Lisa’s door and knocked on it with my right hand.

The door opened to reveal a tall man with the features of some unusual breed of dog from the northeastern Midlands. He looked at me and then smiled a little and said, “Welcome Oberon. Come on in!”

I looked the man in the face and then grinned a little with my ears and tail before I held out my hand and said, “My name is Adòn Naharél. I just recently became a member of the Long Scouts. This,” I indicated Garen “, is my son. I just adopted him today.”

“I am Alec, Lisa’s Husband!”

I stepped into their chaotic apartment and looked around. “Earlier on your wife told me that Meredith would be dropping by with his children about now. Have you seen him here?”

“Meredith and Lisa are in the kitchen,” Alec answered. “The kids are in the playroom making trouble.”

I shook my head and chuckled. “I see. Who is watching the kids make trouble?”

“They’re safe enough by themselves,” the canine morph answered. “They can’t get into too much trouble back there.”

“Where is that room? And would they mind if I added Garen here to the mix?”

He cocked his head and looked at Garen for a moment. “He might be a little too young to play with the older children yet.” Alec answered. “They do play a bit rough.”

I nodded as I looked down at Garen. “I guess that I will hold onto him for now, but when I go out on my next mission I will have no choice but to leave him with the other children. Even I cannot be in two places at once.” I said with a flip of one of my ears.

“Of course. That’s not a problem as long as you can do some babysitting for us when we have to go out.”

I nodded my head. “I can do that here sometimes, but to tell you the truth I haven’t been with children for more than thirty years. So I may be a little rusty in my technique. Hell I am just starting to learn how to take care of my own son. The other problem that I may face is the last children, other than Garen, that I have had any meaningful contact with were members of my own race.”

Alec simply shook his head. “From my personal experience all parenthood is a learn as you go experience. Trust me you will do fine here, though if it makes you more comfortable there will always be at least one other parent here to help take care of the children.”

“I would much appreciate that. I have more experience out there killing things than I do taking care of children. Here I guess that Garen here will be the youngest child in the group that is to be taken care of?” Just as I asked that someone shouted from the other room.

“Honey!” Came Lisa’s high-pitched youthful voice. “Dinner is ready! If Oberon is there can you bring them in here?”

I looked at the canid in front of me and said, “Well I guess had better get moving if we want something to eat.”

“That’s for sure, we can’t be for dinner!” With that said he began to make his way deeper into the apartment.

I followed him with Garen in my arms as he guided his way through his apartment into a large dining room. The large dining table was ringed with many people including several children. I looked at the other people around the table before I finally introduced myself. “Uh hello I guess. My name is Adòn Naharél, though many of you already know me my by other name; Oberon. This here,” I indicated the small feline morph that I was carrying. “Is Garen Naharél, my adopted son.”

“Welcome Oberon and Garen,” Lisa said. She pointed to two of the children that were sitting at the table. “Those two are mine and Alec’s children, Eric and Lucy.”

I looked at the two human children and nodded my head, and wiggled my ears at them. I quickly found myself a chair and sat down, with Garen still in my arms. “Lisa do you have a chair that I could put Garen in while we eat?”

Alex came up beside me carrying a chair with tall legs and a small seat. “Here we are. The right seat for the little cat.”

I nodded in thanks and placed Garen in the seat, being sure that his tail was threaded through the hole in the back of the seat. “Now what is for supper?”

“Well since we are a mixed group I have several things. Pasta and lamb for us and the children, while I have some slightly heated up beef steaks for you Oberon.”

“Thank you Lisa, and what do you have for my little cub here?”

“Well we have some of the same pasta with extra bits of lamb in it since he is somewhat more carnivorous then the rest of us.”

“That will be ok with me, though I suspect that he will make a mess of it. As far as I can tell he is a lot more human than I am.”

“That is ok most kids his age are messy eaters.”

I smiled and watched as Lisa passed around the plates with our meals on them. “You seem to be fairly comfortable with only one arm Lisa.”

Alec laughed. “She’s not going to let a little thing like losing an arm slow her down.”

“That is the true mark of a great warrior in my mind. There are some who would quit after losing a limb, but the really great ones are able to adapt and overcome their lack of a limb.”

Lisa blushed bright scarlet. “Thank you, but I have far too much to do to let a missing arm stop me.”

“Have you ever thought about getting one of the mages here to make you a magical replacement limb?”

“A replacement? She asked in surprise. “I couldn’t afford such a thing.”

“Doesn’t our commander, Misha, have a contingency fund for things like that for his people?’

“I’m not sure that the fund would pay for something THAT costly.” She said. “I’m not sure someone can make one.”

“What do you mean? It was very common in my homeland, though there were some people who couldn’t properly control the things. But personally I think that you would make an excellent candidate for something like that.”

“Well we have wooden limbs, but they do not move, or act fully like the limbs that they are replacing.”

“Well in my homeland we use a mixture of magic and mechanics to make metal replacement limbs. I personally know how they are made, but I am afraid that I personally cannot make the limbs. They utilize metalwork this is much more delicate than my own skills permit”

Lisa absentmindedly touched the stump of her arm. “I don’t know if there are mages here that are capable of making things like that here. Though it would be nice to use my arm again.”

“Well I know how to make the runes that are used to enchant Kelmar replacement arms, hell I have made those runes before. However, I don’t know how to make an arm and the parts inside it.”

“Well Misha might be able to help you with that,” Meredith commented. “He’s good at making those small parts for Madog.”

“The trick is the fingers, the wrist, the elbows, and the interface between your own body and the magic of the arm. If the runes aren’t set properly the prosthetic arm can end up being painful for its intended recipient.”

“This won’t be cheap or easy to do.” Lisa commented. “It took Misha over two years to rebuild Madog after Jon found him.”

I nodded my head in understanding. “It may take us some time, but if we do get it to work your new arm may end up being stronger and tougher than your original arm.”

“Well just having an arm again would be nice. So many things are a lot harder, or just plain impossible with just one.” Lisa said.

“Well I will see what I can do for you.”

She smiled. “Thank you Oberon. I miss going out into combat. It’s so quiet here compared to out there.”

“I think I know what you mean Lisa. When I first arrived here at the Keep, after my slight misjudgement of going out north of the Keep by myself I had to spend more than a week here cooling my heels. I nearly went crazy being cooped up in the Keep without any action.” I took a bite of my steak before I looked up at Alec and asked, “So Alec how long have you lived here at the Keep?”

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” he explained. “My family has been here for generations.”

“What was this place like before the curse was cast upon it?”

“Well for the most part it was like it is now,” Alec answered. “The Keep has always been a magical place with its shifting and moving walls. The people here are also the same - personality wise. They just got a little furrier.”

“So was this place always this cosmopolitan?” I asked.

“Always. The Keep has always attracted people of many different types to it. Even under the Seuilman this area attracted odd people from all over the empire.”

“Now this place has its Kelmar Warrior in me.”

Meredith laughed gruffly before Alec continued, “I really doubt that you’re the first Kelmar to be here. Every society in history seems to have had someone from it come here at some point in the past.”

“With all of the Kelmar artefacts that I have found here from my homeland I suspect that there has been more than one Kelmar Warrior here in this place’s past. My only question is how one of my own countrymen could have stayed hidden in this place? After all my people live several centuries longer than you do.”

Lisa shrugged her shoulders. “This is a big building Oberon. There are a lot of people here and plenty of places to live un-noticed.”

“Well generally the concealing their activities is the last thing that a Kelmar Warrior would do. My people tend to want to be celebrated for our actions, after all I have tried as much as possible to gain some recognition.”

“Metamor has always been known for its eccentric and unusual people. They might have simply blended in with the rest of the crowd.”

After a moment of considering what Alec had said I nodded my head and finished up the last of my meal. When I looked over at Garen I could only shake my head in wonder. Somehow he had managed to get food everywhere but inside his mouth. “Lisa do you have a cloth handy?”

The whole group around the table broke out laughing. “He seems to have turned eating into a full contact sport!” Meredith joked.

Lisa quickly retrieved a large, moist cloth for me. “Here. A parent should always be ready for things like this.”

“Well I was in a bit of a hurry when I got here. The result of that was I forgot to bring some of Garen’s supplies with me.” As I bent down to clean his face Garen shifted a little and a very unpleasant, and pungent aroma arose from him. “Now I really am regretting that mistake. You will have to pardon me, but I have to go back to my apartment to change him.” I said as I finished cleaning off Garen’s face. With that done I picked him up and began to excuse myself.

“You need diapers?” Lisa asked, guessing correctly what my problem was. “We have some here for when we are watching some of the other little ones here in the Long House.”

“Yes that is exactly what I need, though I suspect that even you can tell that much.”

The whole group laughed. Lisa pointed to a door behind her. “Through there is the playroom. There is a changing table and all that you will need.”

“Thank you Lisa.” I quickly left the room to spare the others from Garen’s odours and to perform the unpleasant duty.

Ten minutes later I returned with Garen, who was giggling merely in my arms. “He seems to think that being changed by me is a game.” I said rolling my eyes.

“I hope you found everything that you needed in there.” Lisa said.

“Yes I did, though I did have to do some clever thinking to make it so that the diaper would fit Garen. After all how many other children do you care for who have tails?”

“Ah! I hope it didn’t cause too much trouble.” Lisa added.

“Not at all Lisa. However before I head home this evening can you remind me to remember to take his worn diaper home with me. I have to clean the thing up when I get back home.”

“All right. But that can wait until after dessert.”

“Certainly Lisa. Do you know anything that will make it easier to clean those blasted things?”

“”No magic can clean out a soiled diaper except hard work. Though I do have some soap that does make it easier.”

“That would be much appreciated Lisa.” I replied as I sat down with Garen in my lap.

“Lucy,” Lisa said to her daughter. “Would you and the others please go play with little
Garen for a little while.”

“Sally, Silma, why don’t you help them take care of Garen,” Meredith added. “Between the four of you it shouldn’t be too hard.”

I watched as the four children came up to me and looked up at Garen.

“Come on Garen!” Lucy said delightedly. “Let’s go play!”

Garen looked up at me, the question clear in his green feline eyes.

I nodded my head and gently placed him down on his own feet.

“He’ll be fine with them,” Meredith said. He looked at his own daughters and instructed, “All of you play nice.”

Garen continued to look at me until both Sally and Lucy took either of his hands and began to guide him to the playroom.

“Now we finally will get some peace and quiet for a little while at least.”

“They’ll be close in the next room. Close enough to keep an eye on them.”

“That definitely makes me feel good. Though I am kind of new to this sort of thing.”

“You’ll do all right,” Meredith commented. “It just takes times to learn the basics.”

“I may rely on your assistance Lisa, Alec, Meredith to help me through my first few months taking care of Garen.”

Lisa grinned. “Of course. We’re all here to help each other. Together we can do almost anything.”

“I’ve personally never had any children, though I have a little experience with my sister’s children. However, that was more than thirty years ago.”

“You seem to be doing well already.” Meredith commented. “It seems to be coming to you well.”

“Well I believe that I still have a whole lot to learn about this sort of thing.”

All of the parents laughed. “No one what it is like to be a parent till you are one!”

“I guess that much is true.” I looked over at the door to the playroom as a loud childish yell came from behind it.

Lisa walked over to the doorway and looked inside. “What are you all up to in there?”

As soon as the door was opened all five of the children came flying out of the room and began to run around like wild animals.

“What is going on?” Alec shouted in a tone voice that quite simply said ‘I’m the father here.’

All four of the older children came to a screeching halt, but Garen ran up to me and snuggled deep into the fur of my chest.

“What is going on?” Lisa asked in a more reasonable tone of voice. “Why are you all running around like wild lutins?”

“We play tag.” Garen told me in a quiet voice, his tail still waving in agitation.

“Ah! And who was it?” Lisa asked. “Garen?”

Sally shook her head while she looked up at her father. “It was my turn this time.”

“All right. Just keep it down to a dull roar all right?” Lisa ordered.

At that moment the youngest of the girls said. “That little boy has claws.” At the same time she held up one of her arms to show off thin red scratches that Garen had marked her with.

“You’re first lesson as a father Oberon. Teaching your son to play carefully with others. He has to learn to be careful with his claws and teeth.”

I gently took one of Garen’s small hands in my own and pushed on his index finger to expose the tiny sharp claw that extended from the tip of the finger. “I may have to trim his claws for a while until he learns not to use them when he is playing.”

“Sometimes the instincts can be hard to keep in check,” Meredith commented

“I really know what you mean Meredith, but I will make him learn not to use his claws when he is playing with others.” I looked down at Garen and noticed that his eyes were hooded and that he was falling asleep. “Well Lisa I would love to stay, but I think that I need to get Garen to bed. I also need to get some sleep, after all I just got back from my first official patrol as a Long today.”

“Don’t forget Garen’s stinky little gift,” Meredith said.

I looked at over at Lisa and asked. “Do you have anything that I can carry it home in Lisa?”

Lisa left the room for a moment and returned with a worn looking oilskin bag. “This should do. And feel free to keep it if you want.”

I nodded my head and twitched one of my ears. “I might need to use it when I bring Garen here. Tomorrow I will make a point to bring some of his diapers with me. I would like to begin contributing here if you don’t mind giving me a rotation tomorrow. After all on the day after I have some work to do in my forge. My pattern of attendance will be similar for much of my career here in the Keep.”

“You want to begin helping out with the children tomorrow? You are welcome to come and help.” Lisa said.

“What time should I drop by tomorrow morning?”

“Seven in the morning should be fine. It will give you enough time for a good night’s rest.” Lisa said.

“You’ll need the rest!” Alec joked

“Ok I will see you then.” I took the oilskin bag from Lisa and collected Garen’s stinky diaper before I headed for the front door. “I will see you in the morning.” With that said I quickly headed back to my new apartment where I changed Garen and put him down for bed before I cleaned the diapers that he had used today. Now that I had all of that taken care of I turned in myself to get some much-needed rest.