The Prize

by Christian O'Kane

It was bitterly cold outside but the room was warm and cozy kept that way by a nice, warm fire. The two occupants were snuggled close together in the room’s sole bed under a pile of blankets.

Neither of the two were truly human. Metamor Keeps strange and powerful curse had changed them both into forms that were part human and part animal. Ferwig had gained the brown and tan spotted form of a hyena. It fit the warriors massive frame perfectly. “What’s wrong?” he asked Teria.

“Nothing is wrong,” she answered. Teria had retained the long, sensuous form that she was so proud of. But that had been overlaid by the thin, form of a wild cape dog. The two different forms complimented each other nicely. Her black fur was liberally sprinkled with large, white and brown spots.

“You’ve been brooding since we came back to the Keep,” he explained. “And you reek of musty old books.” With the hyenas powerful body came the animals powerful senses of smell and hearing.

“I’ve been pondering things,” she answered cryptically without removing her head from where it rested on Ferwig’s chest. With one hand she idly played with the thick fur the curse had gifted him with.

“Pondering what?” he asked.

“Us, Metamor Keep, The Yule attack and Nasoj.”

“Edmund described Nasoj perfectly. He’s greedy and stupid,” Ferwig commented.

“Not stupid, foolish,” she corrected.

“You’ve been thinking about the prize. Haven’t you?” Ferwig asked.

She didn’t answer but simply rested quietly but not looking him in the face.

Ferwig lightly grabbed Teria’s head and turned it till she was looking at him. “Teria please tell me you haven’t wasted the entire day on that silly tale.”

A fire lit her eyes and she sat up suddenly. “It’s not a silly tale. Nasoj believes it,” she said in angry clipped tones. “He’s spent the last ten years trying to take Metamor Keep to get it.”

“Teria,” the hyena man said softly. “That’s just another wild tale like the great bell of Mutral and the flying whales of the great northern oceans. It’s a bed time story told to entertain children.”

“You don’t know the full story,” Teria said as she got up from the bed and walked across the room.

Ferwig enjoyed the sight of the nude form of Teria slowly walking across the room. He especially enjoyed the way her hips and tail moved in unison. The curse had been kind to them, making both of them into animal morphs. They had even become similar species. Both were canine. “Everyone knows the old tale of how Metamor Keep was created by God himself to safeguard something of great value. Something so great and terrible that it had to be hidden from the world.”

“It’s an old tale. A very old tale. Today I saw an elvish book that was at least three thousand years old,” Teria said with awe in her voice. “They let me not only read it but actually hold it!”

Ferwig sat up in surprise. “Really? I didn’t think they would even let you know such a book existed. Anywhere but here it would a treasure and locked away forever.”

“Amazing,” she exclaimed. “They have a library that’s the largest in the world. I’ve never seen so many books! They have a score of books on it. People have spent decades looking for it. People have died in the hunt for it.”

“Is it a wise thing to look for something so dangerous that the Great One himself hid it from the world?” Ferwig asked quietly.

Teria hesitated and rubbed her hand. Ferwig knew what she was thinking about. She had actually touched that terrible, black axe Misha used and lived. Teria never spoke of what had happened to her that day but she had been very silent and contemplative since then. He had heard the stories of how other people who had touched it and not survived. Very ugly stories.

“I don’t want it,” she said firmly with a trace of fear in her voice.

Ferwig climbed out of bed and made his way over to Teria. He wrapped his powerful arms around the woman and hugged her tightly.

“I don’t want it,” she repeated with a tense edge to her voice. “But I think I know where it is.”

Ferwig was surprised. Teria might be flashy but she never exaggerated. When she made a statement like that she meant it. “How?”

“Nasoj and the Keep itself told me,” she explained.

The warrior looked at her dubiously.

“Why has Nasoj spent almost a decade attacking Metamor Keep?” she asked her lover.

“What motivates any conqueror?” Ferwig countered enigmatically.

She shook her head. “He was after the Prize. Ten years and three direct assaults and all he was after was whatever great item is hidden here.”

“Impossible. Even Nasoj isn’t that singled minded.”

Teria turned around and looked Ferwig straight in the eyes. “Are you so sure? Remember the attack on Long House during the Yule attack? Why did it happen?”

Ferwig started to speak but she put her hand on his muzzle and stopped his answer. “Ponder it carefully. Nasoj’s best troops went straight for Long house. And when the Keepers attacked his one stronghold in the Keep over three hundred soldiers and a score of his best Druzhina all kept attacking Long house.”

Ferwig nodded in agreement. “That made no sense. Those troops should have come rushing back to help, but they didn’t. Their absence changed the course of the whole battle.”

“And why was that? Why didn’t they come back?” she asked sounding like a teacher in front of a class.

“They had a more important task,” he answered, surprised.

She nodded in agreement.

Ferwig shook his head. “All those people, Lutins, humans and Keepers died just so that Nasoj could chase a fairy tale?” the disgust was plain in his voice.

“And let’s not forget the traitor,” Teria added. “He poisoned the guards at one gate letting in the attackers. But then where did he go? Did he go to the Duke and kill Thomas? No. Did he loot the treasury or take the armory? No, he went to Long House. His orders were specifically to help take the place.”

“Long House,” Ferwig said quietly, almost to himself. “He thought it was in Long House. That makes sense. It has only one entrance in or out and it is guarded by Metamor’s finest scouts & warriors.”

Teria only nodded her head in response.

“There’s a flaw in your logic,” the hyena morph countered. “Why be so public in hiding it? Kyia can literally move the walls and floors about at will. She could just as easily have completely sealed off the Prizes hiding place. You heard about the Shrieker that Matthias fought just before the Yule? When the fight ended the Keep sealed off the room forever. No one has been able to find it. It simply doesn’t exist anymore.”

“If it’s not here then why create Long House and why do so many clues point to it being there?” she asked.

“A decoy,” Ferwig answered. “While they were busy attacking Long House the real resting place was left alone. Untouched.”

“So the prize isn’t here at all. Long house is just a decoy,” she said in a voice filled with amazement and relief. “Brilliant! Truly brilliant.” She sagged against Ferwig’s strong body.

“You going to look for its real resting place?” he asked in a tense tone, afraid of the answer.

“No. I have something better in mind,” Teria answered. She turned about and looped her right leg through his left leg tripping him.

The massive hyena fighter fell backwards to the floor. The wild canine female climbed on top of him, straddling his naked form with her own firm, naked body. She lay down on him pressing their warm bodies together.

Teria licked Ferwig tenderly on the muzzle as her hands softly caressed his well muscled body in a way she knew that would excite him. He responded and caressed her breasts gently feeling the excitement building up within them both. The two made love together there on the floor of their room.

Below, less then twenty paces from them in a place no keeper had ever been and never would see, was a room. It had no doors, windows or hatches. No magic could ever find it and no one, not even a Daedra could penetrate it’s surrounding walls. It existed in the limbo of other where that it shared with all the uncounted rooms and hallways that people of this age called Metamor Keep.

In this place rested IT. The room itself had changed size and shape and moved about over the millennia but for the last few centuries it had rested quietly in this place. In the past these halls had played host to legions of Aelves who had guarded it not knowing what lay hidden there. And now it again was home to living people who again guarded the prize hidden within. Even if they didn’t realize it.