It had only been a day since I had collapsed on the practice field while sparring with George, the Patrol Master, because of Heat Shock. Now I was laying on my bed relaxing in the early morning light in my apartment. From the quality of the morning light I knew that it was going to be another hot one, hence I would probably spend most of the day in the baths trying to stay cool in the coolest of the pools panting and absorbing water like a sponge. I could of course spend the time in my forge-room, where it seemed that no matter how hot things got in the firebox the room didn't get hotter. I mean how else had I been able to work there for more than two and a half weeks without keeling over from the heat? I had been very lucky that the days that I had gone out on my own personal scouting mission, the weather had been cool and overcast.
After a few more minutes, I slowly pulled myself up and out of bed to look myself in the mirror. The face that was reflected back at me was a rather striking one. My glacially cool grey-blue eyes were surrounded by a large head that was marked with white and black stripes that highlighted my feline features. The most prominent of which was my muzzle which contained a formidable array of teeth. Peaking out from my thick white and black fur on my head was a pair of round ears.
I picked up a brush from my grooming kit and gently ran it through my facial fur straightening out the fur and making sure that each of the stripes was very well defined. When I was finished grooming my fur over my entire body including my four and a half foot long tail I put on a black and red banded long kilt, and my normal weapons belt and cloak before I headed down to the nearest mess hall where I could get something to eat.
Ever since I had been altered into my current form by the curse of Metamor Keep I had found that my appetite had grown quite a bit. Perhaps it was because I was a little more than a foot taller, and roughly two hundred pounds heavier than I had been when I was human. I put a large pile of meat on my plate and sat down over in my normal corner where I could watch over the entire mess hall. There weren't very many people in the hall right now, most people hadn't gotten up yet, but that was the way that I liked things. Besides, I had always been an early riser ever since I had started training when I was only five years old.
When I was finished eating I took a stairway down into lower into the keep to do some exploring because I had nothing better do today. As I walked deeper into the keep I noticed that there were few torches in the hallways, though my natural ability to see in the dark was able to compensate for the lack of light. More than half an hour later I arrived in a small round chamber where I could quite clearly smell rats, though these rats didn't smell like normal rats. There was the unmistakable smell of leather, metal, and freshly carved wood. After looking around for a little while I turned and left the chamber and began to head deeper into the cellars to continue my exploring.
After more than an hour in the depths of the cellars I found myself higher up in the Keep than I thought possible. I opened one of the doors, forgot to duck and got myself yet another bump on the head.
Ever since I had changed into what I was now I had found myself constantly bumping my head on door frames and low hanging signs. They had become the virtual bane of my existence in the Keep, at least when I was outside I didn't have to worry about my knocking myself senseless on some low hanging sign, or door frame. I did have to worry about the odd low hanging tree branch.
The room beyond the door was full of large bookshelves that stretched from floor to ceiling and was illuminated by large stain glass windows in the upper parts of the room. I went into the room and looked around; behind a desk near the door was a person that looked like an owl sitting on a sort of perch looking at a large leather bound book.
The owl glanced up at me with her captivating yellow eyes before she said in a commanding female voice "Can I help you sir?"
"Not really ma'am I was just looking around the place, I haven’t been around the keep for all that long, besides I don't read your common language all that well."
"What do you mean sir?"
"Ma'am I can read my own language, Kelmarhastarat, but my skills reading your language haven't improved all that much in the past thirty years that I have spent in the presence of your people. What little I have learned of your language has come as a result of doing business on this continent."
"Where are you from?"
"My homeland is a long way from here. I had to steal a boat in order to reach this place, and even then I took more than three and a half weeks to reach land. Thank goodness the weather at that particular time wasn't all that fierce because if it had been I wouldn't be here right now."
"It must be hard being so far from your home."
"Well I've managed to get used to it in the past thirty years although there have been a few times when I have missed my homeland though I can never go back, especially now that I've been turned into what I am now."
She looked into my eyes before she said, "If you need any assistance I can help you, I used to work at a university as a teacher but then the local baron died and the new one was a religious hysteric. With the support of the local Ecclesia he purged the city's university of all Lothanasi.
As a believer in Samekkh I was forced to flee before they could burn me at the stake as an unbeliever."
"That sounds you've had a tough life ma'am."
"You can call me Mael-Murie." She stated with a quiet dignity that did a lot to point out here strength of being. If she had been born in the Clanlands as a warrior she would've been someone to respect.
I bowed slowly to show her that respect before I replied, "My lady you can call me Adòn Naharél."
She smiled up at me before she pointing out "You have an interesting name Mr. Naharél."
"Well that is what you get when you aren't born in any recognizable country on this continent." After another few moments talking with her I went deeper into the library to look at what they had in their collection.
In section in the back I was utterly shocked to find a small selection of scrolls from my homeland. These scrolls included the Grawshtal Hednark, the definitive guide to warfare that had been written by the famous philosopher Tshan Ktrak. I pulled the scroll off of the shelf and then pulled off the soft cloth wrapping and began to unroll the ancient book to look at the runes that were marked on the delicate parchment.
Some time later, I wasn't sure how much later exactly, I heard someone come up behind me.
"You understand that scroll?"
"Certainly, it's written in my own language."
"I found those books in that section only a couple of weeks ago and haven't managed to make heads or tales of them."
"That is because they are written in Kelmar Runes."
"What is that scroll all about?"
"This scroll was written three thousand years ago by the Supreme Warlord Tshan Ktrak before the beginning of the clan wars. It was all about the conduct, leadership, and prosecution of warfare. The precepts of this scroll remain true even now three thousand years later."
"That is quite something Mr. Naharél."
I nodded and then read another line of the fine runes.
More than two hours later I put the scroll back into its case on the shelf and headed out of the library to go look at other parts of the keep.
I let my feet take me further into the keep until I opened a door and found myself in a huge chamber that was decorated with elaborate tapestries, sculptures, and banners.
I was gazing at the high vaulted ceiling when a large man in the shape of an crocodile came up and said,
"Sir you cannot bring weapons into the throne-room. If you will kindly leave them over by the front door you can watch to proceedings."
I put my hand on the hilt of the long-sword, that I had only just finished making a couple of days ago, laid back my ears and replied, "No one, but no one takes a Kelmar Warrior's sword away from him. It is a very grave offence against a warrior's honour."
The crocodile looked unsure of himself before he said, "If you will leave the room then you can keep your weapon."
"That is acceptable." I replied taking my hands off my sword and trying to get my ears off the back of my skull.
Two guards came up behind me and gently took my arms in their hands before they began to guide me to the nearest door.
Once I was outside of the room I looked at some of the sculptures that lined the hall. I continued walking aimlessly and soon found myself outside in the bright sunshine of the fine spring day.
At some point my nose began to detect the smell of baking bread. This bread smelled absolutely terrific, I hadn't smelled bread of this quality for quite some time. I guess that it might have been something like two years when I worked for some minor noble far to the west of here.
I followed the exquisite smell until I found myself in front of a bakery in the outer ward with the delectable smell floating out of the front of the shop. In the front of the shop was a young man who appeared to be a black and white tabby cat.
He looked up when I walked in the front door and asked me "What can I get for you today sir?"
"I smelled your bread from down the street and I was wondering how much it would cost me to get a small loaf.
"How can you eat any bread? I am modeled after a cat like you are and I can't eat any at all."
"I don't know how I can but I can handle small amounts at a time. If I have too much though then I get into trouble."
"That is amazing that you can eat any at all. If you want some our smallest loaf costs a bronze crescent and a brass penny."
I handed him the money and then took the bread savouring the smell. My sense of taste was somewhat atrophied but as if in compensation I gained an extremely acute sense of smell. In fact I had also picked up a new organ in my mouth that gave me a sort of secondary tasting ability.
I slowly ate the bread, knowing that it wasn't something that my system really liked but none the less I enjoyed every bite of it.
Once I was finished savouring my somewhat unusual snack I made my way to a local butcher who was swinging a knife at some unidentifiable piece of meat.
He looked up at me and then noted the swords at my side before he asked me what he could get me. Once I completed the transaction with the butcher I made my way back up to the Keep while I munched on the piece of raw meat from the butcher shop.
When I was finished instead of washing my hands off in the fountain I simply licked the blood off of my muzzle and fingers.
A short time later I stopped at the armoury and looked in on the person who was there cataloguing the weapons and armour stored there.
When I looked across the counter at the man who was standing there I found myself looking at a mule morph.
"What can I get for you?”
“I was just looking around and I wanted to see what you had available here in terms of weaponry.”
“Well we can get you just about anything that you can think of.”
I nodded my head before I pulled the sword at my side out of its scabbard an placed it on the counter in front of him before I asked him “Have you ever seen a blade like this before?”
The mule picked up the weapon and held it in his hand before he looked down the blade and noticed the Hatkarat Watermark on both edges of the blade. “How did the smith do this, and more importantly, who did this, and where are they from?”
“I made it a short time ago, and as for how I did it. That is something that I will keep to myself.”
The mule’s eyes widened before he seemed to recognize and then said in awe “Are you that strange warrior from way beyond our known lands?”
“Yes I am.”
“What do you think of our weapons here?”
“To tell you the truth some of them are similar to what a warrior would make before he comes of age. You don’t temper your weapons like we do and you don’t seem to take as much care in creating them.”
The mule spluttered for a moment before he managed to say
“Here at Metamor Keep we make some of the best weapons in the Midlands. There are people out there who are clamoring for our weapons and here you are telling me that you could do better.”
“That is precisely what I am telling since I was the one responsible for that sword in your hands.”
The mule looked at me for a moment and then nodded before looking once more at the sword in his hands before he held it out to me and said
“You are a truly skilled smith sir…”
“My name is Adòn Naharél though you can call me Oberon.” I was growing more and more used to referring to myself by that name.
“You can call me Jack DeMule and I work here on most days when I’m not training young people how to fight.”
I nodded slowly looking him up and down. He seemed to be a rugged individual with some strength in his bones. After a few more seconds I held out my right hand and shook feeling the firm grip that the mule possessed. This told me a lot about the type of person.
Once he shook my hand he looked into my eyes and queried “Would you like to see some of the more exotic pieces in our collection?”
I turned and looked over at him as I replaced my sword in its scabbard and I could feel my ears pricking forwards at the suggestion. “That would probably be highly educational for me.”
He laughed at my expression before he replied, “Just come back here and I will show you what I mean.”
For more than three hours I perused the collection in the armoury with the Jack looking over some of the more interesting pieces of the collection.
As far as I could tell this was the most complete collection of weapons that I had ever seen. There were even a few weapons that I had never seen before. When we were finished at last I thanked Jack before I headed out into the yard where I let my feet take me where they would.
At some point my wandering feet took me to the Deaf Mule where I heard the kind of noise that can only come from a rather busy place.
When I stepped through the door, I remembered to duck this time, I found myself in the busy common room. Opposite the dart board there was the lizard, Copernicus, throwing darts at the board with another man who was missing by quite a bit.
I made my way from the door to the bar where I ordered an ale before I headed over to where they were playing to watch the game. After Cope's opponent threw his last dart at the board the lizard shook his head before he said
"Simon you want to go again." The young man, or more properly child, shook his head before he replied
"Not tonight Lizard Lips I know that I can't beat you right now." I took a gulp of my ale before I stood up and asked Cope
"You want to try that with my Cope?"
"Adòn you're welcome to try if you want."
I nodded slowly and went over to him and picked up the three darts that his opponent had left on the nearby table and began to cast the darts at the board. However, this game required a different style of throwing than I was used to and I missed the bulls-eye each time I tried to throw.
"I thought that you would be better than this, considering the fact that you are a warrior."
"If you want I will throw my style and you throw in your style and then you will see precisely how good I really am with projectiles."
He looked at the board for a second and then nodded his head in agreement and went over to pick the darts out of the board while I pulled three of my throwing knives from where I had put them at the back of my light sword-belt.
I laid the three knives on the table and asked Cope if he wanted to go first.
"No be my guest you go first."
I nodded slowly and picked up the first knife and checked its balance before I threw it lightly at the board.
When Cope saw the result of the throw his eyes went wide before he threw his first dart at the board, it hit the board almost close enough to knock my knife out of the board.
I carefully picked up my second knife and made my second throw. It was slightly off target and it hit just below his first dart.
His second dart hit just high of my first knife. I looked at the board and focussed my attention on the bull’s-eye, clearing my mind of all distractions until all that I was aware of was the target.
"Holy Yashuna how in the name of the Eli did you manage to make that shot?"
I looked at the board for the first time in the past few minutes and then responded by saying, "I concentrated on the target and that's all."
"Well that shot was one in a million."
"If I need to I can repeat it again."
Cope shook his head in wonder before he threw his last dart. It was a superlative shot and it hit almost on top of my last knife.
I nodded to the lizard and quietly pointed out the fact that his shot was just as good as my own shot. He chuckled slowly before he turned his head to face me and replied "I was surprised that you made that shot. Everyone else that I've ever played this game with has never made a shot like that."
I walked up to the board and so did he to tally the score, as he counted up his eyes widened in shock at the sight.
Finally he looked up at me and said "You managed to tie me?!! Nobody has ever tied me at darts."
I pulled the three knives out of the board and returned them to their sheaths before I turned around and said, "I'll play you again tomorrow at around the same time."
He looked at me in suspicion before nodding his head as I finished my ale and headed out the door.
Half an hour later I arrived back at my room and threw my cloak on the hook before I sat down in one of the chairs, pulled a blank piece of paper from a sheaf that I had concealed in my chest, and began to write down my experiences of the day in my own language.
There was a knock on the door and I went over to answer it to find Misha the fox standing there with something in his hands.
"Here's the collar that I promised to make for you." He held it out and right away I could tell that it was a utilitarian item with not much thought given to its decorative potential, in other words it was perfectly suited for me.
I took the collar from him and then went over to my chest and opened the lid and began to shuffle around in the chest. The section that I was looking for was deep in the chest near the bottom. I was roughly shoulder deep in the chest when I lost my grip on the floor and fell into the chest. Misha came over and looked at me down in the bottom of the chest.
I was laying on my back on top of one of my chainmail shirts.
“How did you get in there Oberon?” the fox asked me.
“I uh…lost my grip on the sides of the box.”
“How are we going to get you out of there? A block and tackle?”
“No we don’t need anything quite that ridiculous.”
“You could have fooled me.”
“Just give me a few moments, I think I know where I left my cash box.” I searched around the large room inside my crate for several minutes before I located my cash-box in one corner. I came back to the lid and held, the nearly 30lb box, up for Misha to take hold of.
He grabbed the box with a startled grunt. “Just how many coins do you have in this box?”
“Well I am not really sure how much some of those coins are worth.”
I heard him drop the strong-box on the floor. “What do you mean? Gold is the same everywhere.”
“Well some coins aren’t as pure as others.”
“I see.” Misha said as I grabbed the wooden ladder that I had built into the rim of the box and began to climb upwards.
Once I reached to top I picked up the strong-box, undid the lock, and opened the lid to reveal the horde that I had deposited there. The horde was something that I had earned over the past thirty years; I hadn't really had a chance to spend it. The box was almost full to the brim with silver and gold coins.
"You could buy half of Euper with this many coins." Misha said in surprise when he saw my horde.
"Well I haven't had all that much chance to spend them given the fact that I've been working to earn these over the past thirty years."
", and what good does it do you just lying in a chest collecting dust?"
"What would I use it for?" I said as I dug out a shimmering handful of coins and put them on the desk where my journal was laying.
"Well, you could buy yourself some clothes, fine food or even your own house!"
"I travel too much to buy a house, my clothes are perfectly good, and I prefer simple food without any fancy spices." I said absently as I counted out a small stack of glimmering gold coins. These coins were of different denominations and from different countries but they weighed approximately the same.
"With that fursuit you're wearing my friend you’re traveling days are over."
"I think that I've figured that much out." I said before I handed him a hundred and ten gold coins, though I wasn't exactly sure of their value. He handed me the collar and I put it around my neck and then felt a shiver of cold work its way through my body. I could spar in the yard now without having to worry about overheating.
"Did you want to try sparring again Misha?" He looked at me and then shook his head before he replied
"Not right now Oberon I have some things that have to be taken care of in the Long Hall and I've put them off for long enough already." I nodded before I pointed out that I was going to go get some practice down in the practice grounds anyways.
Fifteen minutes later I stood in the middle of the grounds with my Gatraibvan swinging it hard without experiencing any signs of fatigue. This collar was amazing, I would have to find a way to thank the fox for it though I couldn't figure out how to at this point in time. I was careful with weapon since wasn't sure of how to move. When I had been in combat on my first day I had been much more confident with my moves, but then I hadn't had to worry hitting my tail or legs because I was more concerned about hitting the lutins. Now I was working on my technique and trying to create new methods of wielding the weapon with my new body. One thing that I was realising was the fact that my tail got in on almost every movement that I did. This was going to take a fair amount of work for me to get used to but I would get it figured out. I put the weapon down and then focussed my mind on nothing but my forms and then picked up the weapon and began to go through a series of movements that I was familiar with though I was modifying each move that went near my legs or my tail.
I don't really know how long I practiced but I suddenly heard a voice shout
"GO TO BED! Plenty of time in the morning for that." I looked around for a moment and then noticed a window up in the Keep that was open and there was a head poking out of the window. As usual it was Misha, that nosey fox, was looking in on what I was doing. I swiftly responded
"Why go to bed when I can get this figured out now?" The fox laughed brightly, though I could tell that he was tired, and responded by shouting
"Because even your body needs rest you foolish cat." I put down the weapon, feeling the fatigue in my bones before I finally conceded
"I guess so" before I put my weapon on my shoulder and headed for the nearest door that would lead me to the keep where I could turn in for the night and get some rest. I guess that my practicing could wait until tomorrow. When I reached my room I realized that I was probably at the end of my reserves of strength because my hands were trembling as I undid the clasps that held my cloak to my armour. It took me longer than I was used to for me to pull off my armour and weapons before I flopped into bed without even using the covers. I think that I was asleep when I hit the pillows.