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Ferrous Moon   Oh the Absurdity!

Started 4/24/18 by Desertdruid (stillDruid); 7104 views.

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Ferrous Moon 
(Midnight Castle fanfic by Kitt Chaos) 

The full moon is nigh. Many rune stones are active now -- we can't let our chances slip away! Henry picked up a soaked wet puppy at the doorstep of the castle, and he was naught but a wolf cub -- and now, completely tamed. He already tries to protect little Anabel. March 1985  

Prologue 

The Lord Chancellor stood in front of the Wise Dragon, and while it seemed he was in the place of supplication before the mighty mythical beast, the argumentative tone he took showed that he, at least in his own mind, was the dragon's equal.

For his part, the dragon permitted the greater vampire the vanity, knowing that if it came to it, the Lord Chancellor would never disobey one of his commands. Still, if holding a discussion permitted the issuing of the commands to be more palatable to the volatile vampire, and allowed him to keep his delusion of equal status, it didn't matter to the Wise Dragon. As long as his plans were completed, he didn't care what means were used. 

"Transfer of Affection? A risky spell at the best of times and the knight's affection is rather -- ardent," the Lord Chancellor noted. 

"No, the long way around. Unless I am completely mistaken, our latest young quester for the Mystery Chamber holds a measure of fascination for our earnest knight," the Wise Dragon replied mildly. 
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Chapter One 

He dropped his hand holding the rose to his waist as the door to the Bailey opened. The young woman, as always, brought the scent of the wide outdoors wafting through the whole place. That original blast of fresh air never lasted, there were too many other sources of smells, far stronger and far less appealing nearby, but the Iron Knight treasured the moment of relief. Whenever Dana stood near, he could still smell tiny bits of those wholesome scents clinging to her hair and clothes. He liked it when the Lord Chancellor gave him a mission for her to gather mystical items; not only would she enter the Bailey several times while she was on such a mission, but she would have to talk with him many times as she returned to give him the items. The respite from the foul odors of the Bailey was precious indeed, but... 

"Good day, Iron Knight. I hope you aren't too mad I took your money at the dice table last night!" Dana winked. 

Oh, yes. He double tapped the dice to turn a six into a one and give her the win on the last throw. What use did he have for money? He was paid for his guardian services, but never had a chance to spend it. He never left the castle environs further than the Inn, didn't drink alcohol, and only played against Dana at the table and even then, for pretty low stakes. 

"Not at all," he smiled gravely. There was something disturbing about the normally welcome miasma of scent surrounding the castle quester. He had been able to tell, if not at a glance, though the family resemblance was strong, then certainly at first sniff, that this young woman was indeed related to the last owner of Midnight Castle. That smell upon her skin, her own scent, was the same. 

So too was the faint smell of flowers and freshness clinging to her clothes and hair, a combination of the toiletries she used and the airy outdoors, full of open sky, flowers, trees, brush growing on the hillside... Outside. Something in him longed, deeply, for outside. Sometimes the solid and ominous presence of the four stone walls around him filled him with a near-paralyzing fear that they wanted to close in and crush him. He wished he could throw off the shackles of duty and honor and leave the castle. He lifted his rose to his nose to clear the heady scent of the outdoors and quell the longing to abandon his post and leave the castle never to return. 

Anabel's scent of roses, that too clung in minute amounts to Dana's clothes. It was a bit stronger today, which meant that Dana had stopped to converse with the girl at the front gate. There had been a disturbing change in Anabel's faint essence lately, a hint of moist earth, or the not-quite clean scent of
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Chapter Two 

Let's see, I'm going to need the Heart of Moonlight to craft the Orb of Moonlight. Hmm, that's in the Stone Gargoyle -- in the Bailey. Funny how the Iron Knight always seems to give me the items that I need to find in the Bailey. I wonder what that means? It sure seems as though there are secrets, other than the location of the Mystery Chamber and what happened to my uncle, all around Midnight Castle. Anabel's now a full-blown vampire -- 

"Hi, Anabel!"  

"I'm still recovering - come back when I feel better," Anabel said. She looks pretty pale today. Wonder why she still hangs around outside, instead of finding a place away from the daylight inside. Granted, it's never particularily sunny around the castle, but still, it can't be the best thing to be in the daylight at all, now that she is a vampire. 

"All right. I'm heading up to the Belfry," I told her. Anabel waved me on my way. 

Hmm, thinking of the supernatural -- the Lord Chancellor has advanced in some way among vampire society, and Salty Took had been poisoned, but remained as a ghost. I sort of feel guilty for that. I fear... The Iron Knight... I couldn't bear it if I... 

Oh, what am I saying? Best for me to focus on my current quest. Let's see, the Stardust Crystal is in the case of the Dead Ambassador. I need another Links of Steel to open his case, but here's the Belfry, all filled with junk again after the last time I straightened it up. I suppose I could rummage about in the Broken Carriage for an extra Runestone after this. It's really strange how all the abandoned areas around this creepy castle seem to keep filling with the exact items I need -- but conceal them in a ton of junk at the same time. Perhaps each one is haunted by its own semi-helpful, junk-obsessed ghost? 
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Chapter Three 

"You have all the items you need?" the Wise Dragon asked. 

"Our clueless knight gave them to me just an hour past. If you will simply craft the Argent Collar, I can get my part of the plan started," the Lord Chancellor replied a bit testily. 

"Should I be concerned you are so eager?" the Dragon mused. 

"Oh, I'm on board with the plan as a whole, but I trust you will not deny me my moment of fun." 

"I've heard about the first part of your 'fun'. Creeping Dana out is perhaps not a wise course of action, and with what you must do to the Iron Knight... Take a care you do not create a new enemy by the end," the Wise Dragon advised. 

The Lord Chancellor waved his hand as if not concerned. "Him? What danger could he pose to me?" 

"By the end? More than you think. Still, that has always been a blind-spot among your kind. You might also have a care about the other one." 

"The niece? I'm certainly not worried about her!" the Lord Chancellor sneered.
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Chapter Four 

The Iron Knight, now a silver-furred wolf, padded into the Forbidden Tower, planted himself in the middle of the floor in front of the Wise Dragon and demanded,  What is going on? 

The dragon chuckled. "Direct, as always. Maybe a touch less polite than usual, but given what the Lord Chancellor put you through, it's understandable." 

Which does not answer my question. 

"True enough, my young friend. Very well, I will tell you what I can. Dana must gather some greater artifacts for me -- artifacts that are found in the wild areas away from the castle. She will need protection, a guardian I can trust to keep her safe. Anabel has recently increased in her personal power; she will be able to ensure the protection of the castle while you are gone." 

But... But... What?! Anabel can protect...?! 

The dragon had begun to nod his great head when a new voice spoke up. "You will answer to the name 'Fluffy' while in this form. You will accompany the niece on her quests for the Wise Dragon to gain components for him. She will be in areas far more dangerous than those found around here -- your task, even if it costs you your life -- is to guard and protect her," the Lord Chancellor commanded from the archway as he entered the tower. 

"We discussed this!" the Wise Dragon roared as he slung his head around to glare at the vampire lord. "He is not going to be called '
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Chapter Five 

"Gee, the Wise Dragon wasn't kidding when he said it was far from the castle." Dana pulled the hood of her cloak tighter against her cheek. "And it's starting to get cold. We haven't even started climbing the mountain yet. Still..." Dana stopped. The Silver Wolf stopped too and sat back on his haunches. Dana reached out an arm and draped it across the wolf's shoulders, which were very near the height a man's would be, even though he was sitting. "You really are enormous, you know that?" Dana pulled them closer together. "But, you are warm!" 

Of course. I've got all this fur, the Silver Wolf replied, though Dana couldn't 'hear' him. She'd been keeping up a steady sort of conversation the entire time, which amused the Silver Wolf no end. Anabel had done the same thing when they were young. 

"Look at the view!" Dana commanded, pointing outward. "Between living in the city, and inheriting Midnight Castle with all its weird little cluttered areas full of stuff, I'd forgotten views further than ten feet away existed in the world." 

The view was spectacular -- the late afternoon sun gilded the tops of trees with a gentle glow, deepened the blue of the sky, softened the edges of the few clouds and drove thoughts of the dark musty areas in and around Midnight Castle from mind. The castle itself had been hidden from view hours ago when they started through the foothills leading toward the mountain peak that was their goal. They had been skirting around a forested area, as Dana reasoned aloud that walking around trees and the underbrush would slow them down more than trekking through the relatively clear area around the forest, even if going around was a bit longer. Her reasoning was sound, as the forest not only climbed up the hill they'd just crested, but also ran down the other side and seemed to expand to fill the valley. They had made it to the base of the mountain they needed to climb -- there was a rope and slat wood bridge linking the top of the hill to the base of the mountain. 
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Chapter 5 continued

"A terrolisk, single-handedly? My, my, the puppy has grown," the Lord Chancellor said, with faint admiration in his tone. 

"When will you realize your dissembling never fooled me?" the Wise Dragon replied. 

"Hmph." 

"Our young friend did take injury in that battle, though, and the new moon prevents his natural gift of healing from working. Perhaps you could do something about that?" the Wise Dragon suggested. 

"You know what my affinity is." The Lord Chancellor affect a bored tone of voice, looked at his fingernails, and buffed them absently against his lapel. 

"True. Useless in this situation. Perhaps Anabel has selected something more traditional?" 

"That girl. While her growth among the Kindred is unprecedentedly rapid, she has not advanced enough to have a true affinity -- yet." The Lord Chancellor's eyes glowed red at the thought of the newly-fanged vampire girl. 

"And our ectoplasmic compatriots, while not tied to time and space, are not strong enough to interact with physical substances. Blast and bother!" the Wise Dragon thrashed his tail in agitation. 

"There's always -- you."
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Chapter Six 

They made it back to Midnight Castle six days after they had set out, with the Never-ending Winter Crystal that the Wise Dragon requested. The eldritch reptile was pleased with their success, and directed both to get some sleep for they would have to set out again the next day. He told Dana to provision herself for a four day trip this time. She'd nodded and waved tiredly as she left the Forbidden Tower. It was only then that Arden thought to wonder where Dana stayed, as she had not accessed deep enough into the castle to have found a private place to sleep within its walls. 

She stays at the Tavern, the Wise Dragon answered.  It's a bit run down and rather well occupied by skeletons, but she doesn't seem to mind. Warren looks after her as best he can, though she has to actually do anything involved with the material world for him. Still, it seems to work -- at least for now. 

Arden considered his own situation. He had, in the course of his knightly training, learned to stave off sleep in order to maintain the security of a guarded position, as in the Bailey, but even he still needed some sleep. There was a small alcove hidden behind the ruined carriage that housed the Wheel of Fortune that he had outfitted with a cot years ago. He was a naturally light sleeper, so the arrangement worked. He supposed he could curl up there, even though he was now a very large wolf, there should be room enough... 

Under no circumstances are you to remain in the Bailey, the Wise Dragon commanded.  For the time being, you may remain here. Around the next turn of the staircase winding upward, the Lord Chancellor made a place for you. 

Complete with a bed of thistles, I suppose,
Arden thought darkly as he padded up the stairs. The Wise Dragon laughed. 
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Chapter 6 continued

He found it in short order, a small impression, not deep enough to be a cave, but offering some protection from a rising breeze and the approach of anything larger than an insect. As a bonus, it was near a pool fed by a moving stream, so the water was potable. Finally, there was a break in the trees around the cavelet, so the sky was visible. 

The last bonus was for him. He'd been detailed inside the castle Bailey for so long that he'd forgotten how beautiful the sky could be. Oh, he left the Bailey once in a while, when there was a break in his duties to go to the Tavern, or perhaps visit the Wise Dragon (he didn't much care to visit the Lord Chancellor) and until recently, visit with Anabel. He was sure she was avoiding him, as she was never at the gates whenever he passed through. He wanted to know what he had done to upset his friend enough to avoid him. 

But, the sky. On the last trek out from Midnight Castle, there had been snow more often than not, but one night he had glimpsed half-forgotten stars. The weather was so much more mild this time, almost as if it were a different season entirely, and he was eager to have a chance to do more than have a mere glimpse of a night sky. Something in his heart sang in anticipation. 

"Oh, perfect!" Dana exclaimed when the Silver Wolf led her to the campsite. "And water! I've been wanting to wash my face and hands all day." 

Dana puttered about for a little while, gathering leaves and some of the softer brush in the little cave and setting her cloak on it to form a bed. The pack that held her gear doubled nicely as a pillow, though right now Dana rummaged through it for a food ration. 

Arden barked twice until Dana looked up, then ran a short dash toward the woods. "Yeah, get something to eat yourself, but don't bring it back!" Dana shuddered. "I still remember waking up after my cat thought a dead mouse treat would be a nice thing to leave on my pillow!" 

Arden had found the hunting skills of his youth returned along with his wolf form during their mission to recover the Never-ending Winter Crystal, though it was far easier to find his dinner this time around. He deliberately splashed through a stream on the way back to the campsite to make
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