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Enter the Tiger
|Copyediting is welcome|
|Metamor Keep story universe|
I looked back down the road at the caravan that was making its slow laborious way around the treacherous road to the castle that stood in the middle of the valley far off in the distance. The weather up here was unseasonably warm for this time of year. For the most part the snow, that would normally be still on the ground at this time of year, had melted, though there were some patches still remaining in shady spots and on the north side of the mountains.
This early melting of the snow had made the road, that we were currently traveling muddy and very treacherous. I had been called upon, more than once, to put aside my longbow to help prevent one of the wagons from sliding off of the road and down the side of the mountain. Some of the guards who were more experienced with this route traded stories while the merchants chivvied their beasts along the road almost as if they wanted this section to be over with quickly.
In the cities of the Midlands I had heard many tales of this keep from common citizens and soldiers. They had said all sorts of weird things only half of which I believed. I had seen a lot of things in the past thirty years and I wasn’t about to believe a bunch of drunks at a local tavern, because I had long since learned that many nightmarish creatures that people told tales of were born in the bottom of an ale tankard or a wine bottle.
I had been wandering the Midlands for the past twenty-eight years as a mercenary since I had arrived on the continent from my homeland after my clan had been exterminated by one of its rivals. It had become my doom, as the last member of my clan to wander the lands of the world for the rest of my long life forever exiled from my homelands.
Though, my skills as a warrior had grown much since I had left my homeland, those many long years ago but it didn’t matter since I would never be able to go back. I was an outcast and the first Kelmar Warrior that I met would try to kill me without hesitation. When I had left the Kelmar Clanlands I had been ranked as a Swordmaster of the Black and hence a match for just about everyone that had challenged me over the past few decades. However, I knew that if I ever met another Kelmar Warrior I would probably end up dead since any warrior that would come after me would probably be a Swordmaster of the Bronze, or maybe even of the Silver and hence a much better swordsman than I was.
So here I was acting as a mercenary caravan guard on some insignificant caravan into the mysterious Metamor Keep. The Keep was located in the only major route between the Giantdowns and the Midlands and hence was strategically of very high importance. If the Keep could be held against an enemy army, they wouldn’t be able to advance any further into more civilized lands where people weren’t as used to the dangers of an enemy.
I use the term civilized only lightly because they had some rather interesting beliefs in the Midlands. I had been kicked out of more than one garrison job because of my faith in the Kelmar gods and my Soul Guide. The Soul Guide was something that every Kelmar Warrior possessed. My particular guide, Oberon, was in the form of a large black and white Snow Tiger, only one thing differentiated him from a real Snow Tiger; he had the ability to speak to me in the Kelmar Language.
I looked down at him, he wasn’t visible to those who weren’t Kelmar, and noticed that he was nervous about this place for some reason. It was easy to see why, was the perfect place for an ambush. I had heard that this country was crawling with a small type of people known as lutins who were perfectly willing to kill those in the keep and those who supplied them.
However, from what I had also heard that threat had been reduced of late and now we were only supposed to be guarding against the more normal threat of raiders and bandits that infested areas of roads where ambushes were possible and caravans with high value cargos passed through. This spot was certainly a candidate for that because there were rocks on one side of the road and a straight drop off on the other side. Our caravan was also a firm candidate for raiders because it was one of the early caravans of the year and hence had a great deal of things to carry that were of some value.
After another look at Oberon I loosened my swords in their scabbards before I reached over the wagon that I was walking beside of and pulled my long bow from its place behind the driver’s seat.
When I had first joined the caravan the master merchant who had hired me had asked, “Why on this green earth do you have a full chest of things to bring with you?”
I had looked at him for a second before I had replied, “I have a full chest master merchant because it contains all of my weapons and clothing that I am not wearing.”
What I hadn’t mentioned was the fact that this chest was no ordinary chest. It was a special chest that could literally store tons of things in it without getting any heavier. Some compartments contained my fortune that I had raised in the past thirty years of fighting as a mercenary. In other compartments there was the riches of my former clan. But I told him of none of that.
Now he looked over at me before he asked me “What’s the problem Adon you seem a little nervous.”
“Master merchant it has nothing to do with being nervous and everything to do with being cautious. This is an excellent place for an ambush and I would hate to have made you feel good, just by not being prepared for the eventuality that we do get ambushed.”
He looked up at the rocks in apprehension before he fumbled for the short sword that he wore at his side. He was obviously a man who wasn't used to the idea that he may have to fight for anything.
As he fumbled about with his weapon I kept my eyes on the rocks above the road. Although I did spare more than a moment to ask Oberon what he thought of road.
“I don’t know, but I can tell you that there is danger in the area.”
I mentally nodded my head before I looked at those blasted stones. The problem with Oberon was the fact that he could never be specific about his information because he was only an ethereal spirit and not a true person.
We were more than half way through the rock garden when it happened. Suddenly the air was full of arrows raking the caravan, killing the caravan master by hitting him in the neck and wounding or killing a few of the other guards. I ducked behind the wagon the instant I heard the arrows but none-the-less I still received three arrow hits, none of which was major. The first hit my left shoulder pauldron, the second embedded itself in my right chest plate, and the third caused a spike of pain as it managed to hit flesh. It hit me on my right arm, just above the elbow, though it wasn’t all that much of a hit.
I took a second to yank it out before breaking off the two that were embedded in armour before I returned their fire with my own longbow.
In my own lands I had been only considered a merely adequate bowman, but here at the ranges at which I was firing I was able to score a hit almost every time.
I had managed to kill six more bandits before they came running down the hill to meet the caravan guards and merchants who were defending their livelihoods. I dropped my bow and threw all six of my throwing knives in roughly ten seconds taking down six of them before I drew both my hand and a half long-sword and my short-sword before getting up close and personal.
This was the kind of fight that I had been bred and trained for. Before they could realize that I was no ordinary country caravan guard I had killed five more of their number. Several of them stepped back and gave me some space while some of the more desperate men tried to get through to attack me. I wasn’t a cheap prize after all considering the fact that my weapons and armour could probably be sold for quite a lot of money.
At that point a large man in fine armour with a talbard of Knight of the Holy Order of the Protector stepped out from his followers and looked at me before he asked, “Why in the name of Eli do you guard this caravan when those who are paying are working for the demons that live in that Keep? Besides they probably don’t pay you what you are worth mercenary.”
“I guard it because I am being paid and because I swore an oath that I would guard it until it reached the Keep down in the valley.”
The man who had shouted his question at me shook his head almost regretfully before he yelled that he would give any man who put me down a large pile of gold for killing me. I smiled at the challenge as I brandished both of my swords and replied
“Come to me and meet my swords, they thirst for the blood of those who will serve my Kryta in paradise.” This was a battle that any Kelmar Warrior would be happy to engage in. Hopeless odds, little chances of escape, a determined enemy, and no retreat were things that any Kelmar Warrior would relish as I did.
They rushed me en masse in a clear attempt to get in too close for me to do any damage but it was a flawed tactic when coming up against a Warrior of my prowess. I used my swords in concert with each other to create a whirling, singing net of steel that sprayed out bright red blood almost constantly.
These bandits had numbers and desperation in spades, but they had little real training. However, even the most ill trained horde can eventually beat a well-trained enemy given enough time and willingness to take casualties. As they pushed me back towards the cliff to the left of the road I sustained several more small injuries to my extremities. My armour managed to protect my torso from any damage. As they pushed me towards the cliff several of caravan guards rushed to my aid though they didn’t possess my skills in combat, but every little bit helped and our efforts were beginning to show on the bandits.
I was almost at the edge of the cliff when a huge man in rough jerkin came up beside me and tried to hit me with a massive battle-axe. I managed to parry his blow with my short sword but it rattled my arm to the shoulder. I ducked under his next huge blow before I thrust up with the very same sword and spilled his guts all over the dusty road. However, as he fell the massive axe that he had been wielding hit me in the head and I knew no more.
“How is he Brian?” One of his assistants asked cautiously as the raccoon morph leaned over the large dark haired warrior who had been brought in with the caravan that had just arrived from the Midlands. The caravan had been ambushed by bandits just outside of demesnes of the Keep and hence was in an area that the keepers weren’t responsible for.
The mercenary who had brought the man into the infirmary had said, “He was injured roughly a day ago and he hasn’t woken up. His injuries are outside of what I am capable of healing.”
Brian had told the man that he would do what he could to save this mercenary’s life.
“Can you do it in a couple of days because we don’t intend on sticking around to get whatever it was that turned you into what you are now.”
“I highly doubt that I will be able to heal him in such a short amount of time but I will do the best that I can for him.” The mercenary that had brought in his patient had nodded before leaving the room to leave Brian and his assistant with their patient.
Before he could do anything He had to get the warrior’s armour and equipment off of him. “I don’t really know Jasmine, this could be difficult. With head wounds you never know, but considering that he’s survived long enough to get here I have some hope that he will survive. First though, we have to get him out of this armour.” The armour in question seemed to be a composite type with plates, chain-mail, and hardened leather integrated in its construction.
“One thing’s for sure this guy definitely likes his weapons considering how many he had on his person.” Jasmine commented, Brian spared no more than a glance at the goodly sized pile of weapons lying in a pile by the bed. When his compatriots had brought the man in he had at least a dozen bladed weapons on his person, Brian and Jasmine quickly removed all of the hardware before they got down to work.
As soon as the man’s armour and clothing was stripped off Brian gasped in shock. The man’s torso was a maze of scars, in some places there seemed to be scars on top of other scars.
“This man has seen a lot of action Brian.” His assistant quietly mentioned
“That he has Jasmine. I didn’t know that you could pick up this many scars in a lifetime and still be a functioning human being. Although in his profession getting some scars is a part of the job.”
Over the next several hours they worked hard to save the strange mercenary’s life. It was a difficult proposition especially since Brian knew so little about his patient. He was obviously human but there were some things that puzzled him to end. For instance the man appeared to be healing at an increased rate when compared to normal humans. For another when Brian had opened the man’s right eye to check to see if his patient was still alive he noted the fact that the man had golden eyes instead of any normal hue. Once the man was stabilized late in the evening Brian managed to get some sleep while his patient slept on not knowing what was going on.
Over the next few days things didn’t seem to change much although Brian could tell that the man’s personal ability to heal was still functioning because his head wound appeared to be nothing more than a simple bump that one would acquire from getting hit on the head with an acorn falling from a high branch on a tree. After more than a week with no change to his patient Brian was beginning to wonder if the man would ever wake up.
I opened my eyes slowly and looked around without moving my head. The last thing that I remember was the sight of the large man with the axe that I had just killed with a thrust from my long-sword stiffening and then beginning to slump forwards dropping his axe at the same time. After that everything was a blank. I could already tell that I was in a bed in medical ward in some town. I had spent a lot of time over the past thirty years in a bed like this after getting wounded in some battle or another. It was a hazard that I knew went with my profession.
Finally after looking around for a few moments I propped myself up and then rapidly let myself back down onto the pillow as my head started spinning like a Ptaen Death Spiral.
At that point a man, at least I think it was a man, who had had the facial features of a raccoon came into my vision and asked me “Do you know where you are?”
I thought back to where I had been going before I had been hit in the head with a stupid axe before I replied “I believe that I am at Metamor Keep, and that you are one of the residents if I am not mistaken.”
“Well at least I am glad that you kept your mind my mysterious mercenary, you are indeed in Metamor Keep and I am the Healer Brian Coe. I have served as healer here since before the Battle of Three Gates.”
After a moment I looked around again before I asked, “Do you know where they took my sword?” The raccoon looked confused before he nodded his head and responded by saying “Yes they took them up to a room that has already been prepared for you.”
“Are you meaning to tell me that I was expected?”
“The people may not have been expecting you but the Keep on the other hand may have known that you were coming.”
“What do you mean that the Keep knew that I was coming?”
“The Keep here has a spirit of its own and it knows when someone is coming to join the population full time.”
“I have no intention of staying here. There is money to be made out there in service of anyone who is willing and able to hire me.”
“Do you know anything about the keep at all sir?”
“I have heard quite a bit but I don’t really make it a habit of listening to all of the gossip that I hear in city taverns where I am serving as a mercenary. Most people’s tall tales come from the bottom of an ale mug or a wine bottle.”
“Well in the case of Metamor Keep most of those tales are true, although I haven’t heard any of those tales myself since I spend most of my time here in the Healer’s Quarters in the infirmary.”
“Do you at least have one of my swords still here?”
“Yes we do, but why should you need it.”
“It’s not that I need it but that to my people a warrior’s sword is the centre of his being. So if you take a warrior’s sword from him you are removing his honour.”
“I think I see your point there my strange friend.”
“If it would make it easier on you I will give you one of my names.”
“That would be much appreciated.”
“I am known as Adon Naharel.”
“That is a usual name Adon, I haven’t ever heard of one like it.”
“Well you’ve probably never met a Kelmar Warrior and nor are you likely to meet another one Mr. Coe.”
The racoon nodded slowly and then pattered off into one corner of the infirmary before he returned with my hand and a half sword lying across his hands.
I took the weapon from him with a grateful smile and then slowly drew it out of the scabbard a couple of inches before I returned it to its normal position and let myself fall asleep once more.
I wasn’t sure how much time passed this time but when I awoke again I was feeling much better. When I sat up this time there was no trace of the spinning in my head. I looked at my arms and noted the fact that there were distinct stripes of black and white skin running from my shoulders to my hands. What was more noticeable was the fact that the palms of my hands were now black in colouration. After looking at my body for a few moments more I shrugged my shoulders. This really wasn’t something that I was looking forward to the effects of the curses that this place was under. After all how would Oberon manage to find me when I didn’t look anything like myself?
“Hello I see that you’re awake again, I sure hope that you don’t intend on spending to much more time in here. I’ve other things to do besides watch someone sleep and I would guess that you probably need to get some food into that body of yours.” At the mention of food my belly grumbled like an agitated beast and I felt very hungry.
“I guess that as soon as I get some clothing I’ll leave you to your little domain, while I explore what I would quite simply guess is going to be my new home.”
The raccoon nodded slightly before he handed me a robe before telling me that as soon as I got my own clothes on I could return his robe.
“I will make every effort to be prompt with its return Mr Coe.”
“I would appreciate that Adon.” After I threw the robe on and took my sword in my left hand I made my way to the door
“By the way how in the name of Savnator am I supposed to make my way around this pile of a castle?”
“Oh that’s easy all you have to do is think of where you want to be and the Keep will get you there eventually. That is if she isn’t playing games at the time.”
I smiled at his comment before I walked out the door and headed down the hallway to the right. Within ten minutes I found a door that was marked with the five Kelmar Runes that made up my full name, not the name I used in public but my full name Adon Naharel Sahana’Haudorn of the Sundering Stone Clan.
I put my hand on the latch and quickly made my way inside. The wall by the door had at least twenty pegs on it for my weapons which were either lying on my bed or still in the travel chest at the foot of the bed. I quickly opened the chest and pulled out my collection of weapons and began to put them on the pegs. I had several different swords that were each suited for a different style of combat.
As soon as I cleared my considerable collection of normal weapons out of their compartment in my chest I pulled out my clothes and got dressed. My normal walking clothes were comprised of a simple black leather vest and breaches. Once I was properly dressed I grabbed my heavy belt with its double baldrics and slung it around my waist before settling the centre of the baldric with its enamelled Snow Tiger head over the middle of my torso.
For some reason the other mercenaries guarding the caravan had managed to retrieve all of my throwing knives.
Once my weapons were comfortably settled about my body I contemplated the quiver that was hanging on my right baldric before removed my heavy belt once more to detach said quiver and replace it and the sword that was slung on the left side with a twin set of single handed double edged straight sabres before once more reattaching my belt and baldric to my person.
After that was finally taken care of I put on a pair of boots and one of my dark grey hooded cloaks before I opened to door to go exploring. I almost ran smack into a large man, or rather creature that was at least half a foot taller than I was.
He looked down at me before he asked me “Is all of that really necessary?”
“I am a Kelmar Warrior and that means that you will never ever see me unarmed.” The creature, I could only call him a he since I had heard his voice raised and eyebrow before he settled down again and introduced himself, “My name is Copernicus and I have several functions in this place the least of which is guiding you new folks around this place so that you will know some of your way around.”
I looked at the lizard man for a second to get some impression of what he was like from my Soul Guide, who it turned out could recognize me right now. Though the fact that I mostly still looked like myself probably helped him locate me. He stood beside me and looked up at the strange lizard man before he nodded his great, ruffed head to tell me that I was safe with this man.
“I’ll be glad to have your assistance in this matter. I have a lot of experience in castles but from what the Healer Brian told me this castle is somewhat unique in its architecture.”
“Well I will show you the basic areas of the keep so that you know your way around but once we get past that you will have to make your own way. I can already tell that we won’t have to ask you if you will be serving with the local reserves or even army because that is evident in the way that you carry yourself.”
“Is there some form of standing group that I can join that will go out into the enemy lands frequently?”
“The Keep does possess a group of scouts but they don’t possess anywhere near the amount of weapons that you carry.” I slowly muttered a Kelmar phrase under my breath that meant ’To deny thyself options is to doom thyself to death and dishonour.’
“I would guess as much since scouts by their very nature normally like to proceed through enemy territory by stealth and secrecy. They don’t seek combat but instead information that the army can use to defeat those enemies.”
“You sound like you know a lot about war.”
“I have served for the past twenty eight years as a mercenary throughout the Midlands.”
“That’s quite the achievement…”
“I go by the name Adon Naharel.”
“Yes Adon as I was saying that number of years in service is quite an achievement. Normally a person leaves the mercenary trade after ten years because fighting for that long tends to wear heavily on the body.”
“I am not most people, I am a Kelmar Warrior and I have only just reached the prime of my life. Besides I was bred for battle and trained for war since I was very young.”
He looked surprised before he shook his head and began to walk down the hall all the while explaining several things, “This keep has never been taken by and enemy force although there are those that have tried in the past. The curse is one of the effects of one of those attempts to take the Keep and break out into the Midlands”
“The defenders must have fought very hard if they managed to beat the enemy even when they had their forms changed.”
“That we did, although our magic users should also be praised as they managed to somehow reverse most of the major effects of the three enchantments. You see the enchantments were originally a Bimbo Spell, a Baby Spell, and an Animal Spell but our local magic users were able to reduce the effectiveness of the spells making them so that the people who got caught by them could still function. From the look of your arms I can tell that you’ve started to change from the curse and that you’ve been hit with the animal spell.
I nodded before he went on to explain some of the other features of the keep including some of the military areas of the Keep including the Arsenal Tower in the inner ward. He also showed me a large number of areas were common citizens were allowed including the Deaf Mule, the Baths, and the Library.
When he finished the tour he turned to me and said, “If you want to practise with those weapons that you carry I would suggest that you go to the inner ward where there is an archery range as well as a parade and practice grounds where you can practice your skills.
“Thank you for the tour Copernicus I shall make a point of visiting those practise grounds.” With that said I turned and headed back to the Bath were I could get cleaned up.
I hadn’t had a bath in days and I knew that I was beginning to smell, indeed if I was in my home town of Hollow Stone I would get chased out of town until I took a bath for stinking up the place.
Half an hour later I lounged in the warm water of the bath looking up at the domed ceiling while letting the stink of the past few days get washed out of my skin. I spent a good amount of time in the bath going from one pool to the other until I was sweating out all of the toxins in my body in the hottest water that I had encountered since leaving my homeland decades ago.
In my mind I saw that this place had a chance to become a new place that I could call home after so many years of wandering and fighting for nothing but my own purse.
As I finally pulled myself out of the hot water I looked over at Oberon and he seemed to be nodding at me before his spirit voice said, “You do great credit to your mind Adon if you plan on staying here. No Kelmar has lived his life with only the pursuit of death and slaughter as his lone occupation and nor should you.”
I knew what he said was true but it would be hard to change the habits of fifty-five years of war and violence.
I had of course learned some of the other things that Kelmar Warriors could do when they weren’t fighting but I had little time for those pursuits when I was living in my homeland and even less time for them when I was an exile.
I spent most of the rest of the day exploring this place that had just become my home before I went to the Deaf Mule to meet some of the inhabitants of the Keep. The place was full and there were people of all different forms and sizes walking through the room. Sitting at the end of the bar there was someone who appeared to have some of the characteristics of a dog though his fur was thick and white.
I sat down at an empty stool beside him and watched as an apparently young girl made her way to the table and asked, “What can I get you Drift?”
“I’ll have an ale if it’s not too much trouble.”
“As long as you don’t get caught up in a fight again Drift, After all you remember what happened the last time you drank more than one ale.”
“Yeah I remember what happened, that ale was enhanced by someone to the point where it could knock over an elephant and you know that.”
She looked at Drift for a second before she laughed and turned to face me and asked. “What can I get for you stranger?”
“I will try the ale as well.” She nodded at me and then turned to go back to the bar to retrieve our orders from the bar.
The white dog turned to look at me before he asked, “Do I know you?”
“Not likely considering the fact that I’ve never been here before other than earlier when Copernicus showed me around.”
“I see” He mused as our ale arrived.
I sipped the drink to see if it was any good and was surprised to find that this ale had some body to it. Granted it wasn’t quite as strong as Kelmar Mountain Beer but it was a close second in strength.
I stood up after a second and went over to a line that had been marked on the floor several feet from the dartboard. I pulled three of my throwing knives out of their sheathes before placing them in my left hand.
Drift watched as I stood there as if waiting for a signal before I threw all three weapons at the dartboard in less time than it takes to blink three times. All three knives had impaled themselves in the bull’s-eye. I smiled slightly, took a drink and went to the board and pulled the knives out before I returned to the line to throw again.
I had always been good with throwing knives and I enjoyed the practice until the ale began to affect me. I knew that it was time to stop because I had always made it a practise to stop drinking when I began to feel it. After all a drunk isn’t all that capable to defending him or herself when they need to. I wasn’t exactly sure when I left the Deaf Mule but I was enjoying myself as I made my way back to my room.
That night while I slept Oberon came to me in a dream, but not one of my waking dreams where I saw him beside me. Instead this was a full dream and he was standing beside me like he had always done since he had become my guide when I was fifteen. “Adon something is changing you and there is nothing that I can do to guide you through the change.”
“What can you do Oberon to help me?”
He looked around before he replied; “The only thing that I can do Adon is to join you as one being instead of our split beings. You will need my insights into instincts but you will be yourself as you have always been.”
This was something that was very difficult to contemplate since Oberon had been with me for more than fifty years. Then he walked away from me before he turned and charged me at full speed. I knew this game, he would charge me and we would wrestle for a bit and then discuss what had happened since the last time we had been together in a dream. This time it was different because when we came together instead of knocking me down like he always did he seemed to pass through me, but he didn’t come out the other side. Instead my own form began to shift until I looked like he had, but I was standing on two legs instead of four. soon after that happened the dream faded and I entered a dreamless sleep.
When I opened my eyes the next morning I wasn’t all that surprised to find that my face seemed little different from the form that Oberon had given me the night before.
After several moments of thinking things over I stood for the first time in my new form I looked at my whole body in the mirror. I looked much different than I had only a few days ago. My whole body was covered in thick white and black striped fur. I was roughly a foot and a half taller than I had been as a human being.
After I did a full inspection of my new body I tried to contact my spirit guide. Just as I expected there was no response and knew that he had left me for good. I would have to make my way through the world without the guidance of Soul Guide and that was something that frightened me greatly.
I had no intercessor with the gods if I did something that they didn’t favour. I was even more alone than when I had left my homeland after I was exiled by the destruction of my clan.
After considering things for a few moments I finally resolved that I wouldn’t hide in this place without my guide I would try and patch my life back together on piece at a time. When I put on my clothes I was surprised to find that just about everything fit even though I was much bigger than before.
I guess the Keep, or the magic that was woven into my Kelmar clothes had made sure that my clothing and weapons still fit. I did have to change the swords I used as my sides since they seemed a little shorter than they had been before. On my left side I put on my largest sword, a two handed long sword, and on my right I put a single-handed broadsword to replace my short sword.
Once those changes had been made to my equipment I put on my obligatory black cloak and headed out into the keep to locate one of the mess halls. As I walked to the nearest mess hall I thought about my dream again.
Three hours later found me in the inner ward practising with my double sword; or rather it was my two double-edged straight sabres joined at the hilts to form a single double bladed sword.
As I brought the weapon to a halt in front of me I saw a battered looking red fox morph come into the courtyard with a five foot long black axe in his hands. He looked over at me in my striped black and white fur before he came over to me and asked “You new around here?” I nodded slowly looking at the way he stood. He was obviously skilled because he held himself like a warrior and not a citizen. The way he held the black axe in his hand also confirmed my suspicion that he was a warrior.
I slowly bowed at the waist in a show of respect for a fellow warrior before I replied “My name is Adon Naharel Sahana’Haudorn formally of the Sundering Stone Clan and I am a Kelmar Warrior, but you can call me Oberon.” This was the first time that I had ever used my guide’s name to identify myself, but considering what he had done with me last night I believed that I had every right to use his old name. After all it was much easier than using my own name.
The fox’s one remaining ear twitched and so did his tail and he introduced himself, “My name is Misha Brightleaf. I am pleased to make your acquaintance Oberon. Are you actually any good with that thing?” He indicated my double sword with his free hand.
“I can hold my own if that is what you are asking. It isn’t my favourite weapon but it is one of my most formidable weapons.”
He nodded slowly regarding the almost seven foot long weapon before he put down his axe and asked me if I minded a little sparing practice.
“I don’t mind practice at all sir.” I replied and pulled apart the weapon before sheathing both blades while he ran over to the armoury to grab a pair of staffs. As soon as we started banging away at each other with the seasoned pieces of wood I could tell that this man was very, very good.
His reflexes were good as was his positioning and footwork. It probably didn’t help that I was fighting in a body that I had yet to get used to; his familiarity with his body countered my greater reach and power. Finally after a concerted effort his staff struck the back of my knees and I ended up flat on my back with a growing lump on the back of my head.
“Are you ok Oberon?”
I rubbed the back of my head ruefully with my hand before I replied, “I’ll survive Mr. Brightleaf.”
“You don’t have to call me that you can just call me Misha.” He said as he extended a hand to help me get back to my feet. His plan backfired though because he didn’t take into account my own massive weight as he pulled.
I let go of his hand before I levered myself into a sitting position and then stood up. “You definitely have some skills Oberon and you gave me a run for my money, and that doesn’t happen all that frequently.”
“You’re the best fighter that I’ve run into since I left my homeland thirty years ago.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’ve been fighting for longer than I’ve been alive?”
“There’s a good probability that I have Misha.” He shook his head before he turned and headed back towards one of the gates in the wall with his axe in hand and his tail held high. There was one highly skilled warrior that I wouldn’t want to meet in the field of battle. The one disappointing thing about my practice came when I was trying to shoot my bow. Inadvertently the claws in my fingers cut the twisted gut string of my bow. What that meant was that I couldn’t use it while I had claws.
That evening when I sat in my room on my knees in front of the small altar that I had set up to the gods I asked for guidance in going forward into the future. This had been a hard week and it had all started when I had first seen this castle in the distance from the road on the mountain with the caravan. I should’ve looked for something else to do instead of signing on as some caravan guard.
Well as my father had once said ‘You never get anywhere by looking at what might have been.’ That was the truth and I had to get used to what I was now and live for the future not the past. Things had changed but I was Kelmar and thus bound to this fate like everyone else. With those thoughts in mind I went to bed with a somewhat clearer head. Tomorrow would be the first day in a new week and a new beginning for me.
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Claws of the Tiger