Welcome to The Lutin Chronicles, a fantasy series based on the collaborative series Metamor Keep.
This site still has a few rough edges. Pardon the digital sawdust.
The Lutin Chronicles, conceived by Oren Otter, is based on Metamor Keep, a story series conceived by Copernicus, owned by Chris O'Kane, and written by a myriad of writers.
The Lutin Chronicles focuses on Captain Kayrok, an officer in the lutin army whose defeat in battle has disgraced his name throughout the lutin army. Assigned a company of rejects and misfits, Kayrok has been shipped off to the furthest reaches of the forest darkness and given the impossible task of digging a pass through the mountains into the southlands, a task at which he is expected to die trying.
Penance and Retribution is the story from Metamor Keep which introduces Kayrok and the first members of the Omega Company. The story of The Lutin Chronicles picks up after the events in Penance and Retibution**. **[Noted by Webmaster. Requires author confrimation.]
Lutin Chronicles 1
Kayrok looked up at the sheer cliffs in front of him. Here was where the northlands ended. Beyond them, the rich and ripe southlands. Inbetween, miles upon miles of impassible rock. It was now Kayrok's duty to dig through that rock until a passage through to the southlands had been created. It was not because of his qualifications that Kayrok had been sent here. It was because of his failure. Kayrok had been assigned to a very important project by which an army of darkness would have destroyed Metamor Keep. Not only had the project failed, not only had their only ally in the south been burnt to a crisp, but Kayrok's troop had been seen fleeing with the enemy. Nasoj hated Kayrok from the beginning. He had given Kayrok all of the most despised rejects in the lutin army. Now they had all been sent here to spend the rest of their lives in toil and humiliation until they died from exhaustion, spent and dishonored.
Kayrok wasn't doing that.
The commander looked over his troops. Thirty-two men sat or stood in a semicircle about him. Some bore expressions of despair. Some, anger. Some did their best to hide a crushing sorrow. Only one was happy. That was Gerf, the idiot.
Gerf had only recently joined Kayrok's troop. In a way, this had been the captain's doing. Kayrok, while awaiting his court martial, had let it slip to one of his fellow captains that the one punishment he feared more than death was being forced to lead an omega mob, a company of rejects. That Captain had passed the idea on to his superiors. He received a promotion to field general for thinking up a suitably cruel punishment for the traitor. He then promptly died in the next battle against a long patrol. Kayrok, on the other hand, got exactly what he wanted. Neither the judge nor Nasoj knew that he was already commanding the rejects of the lutin army, and was doing extremely well. They sent him every coward, every thinker, every misfit, dreamer and weirdo they could find. Consequently, his command was growing constantly.
Dispersed throughout the group were the soldiers with whom he had served long and well. Sujan, son of Flinz, his second in command, was a sociopath. He had never uttered a war cry. He'd never felt the delight of battle. Never sung a song of valor. He merely served with no emotion. But his calm and rational head had always served Kayrok well. Sytet, the werebat would be invaluable here in the wilderness, acting as Kayrok's eye in the sky. Norebo of the Ironfeet tribe was an excellent spy. Hornbeam the Carnak was a highly inventive soul who could make just about anything from a dead carcas. Hornbeam's magical abilities, which made him an egghead among other lutins, had always given Kayrok an edge. Tripe and Foxtooth, though they had been rebelious toward their old commanders, were loyal and obedient to the commander who treated them with dignity and respect. Only Dimtorch did not remain. The thick-headed lutin meant well, and briefly served as a powerhouse until the cursed water which gave him immense power caused him to mutate to death. Though stupid, he was loyal, and was missed.
It was mostly the newer faces which showed the worst emotions. There was Urik, who was once bitten by a werewolf. An attempt to cure him had gone awry, causing him to turn into anything BUT a wolf at night. There was Booli, who loved animals and didn't like to hunt. Gitch the healer, whose compassion was regarded as a weakness by other lutins. There was Barga, a woman who had enlisted disguised as a man, then been exiled here when her superiors found out. Then there was Angu, who wished he was a woman. Zin was an able bodied warrior, but was labelled a freak because he would occasionally become Zan, a less violent personality. Eggheads were plenty, including Fugu the inventor, Splim the cook, Jora the bard, Jun the magician, Udge the philosopher and Ruku, the scrawny genius. Pip was agile and strong. He was simply two feet tall. Splin was a mutant who could speak to plants. Rugi, though a tallented thurge, was completely deaf. Qlin was obbsessed with humans. Onju was a religious nut. Mipo hated being dirty. Zib was valiant, but hyperactive and irritated any commander he served under. Tiro was obscenely fat. His apetite was matched only by the libido of Brul the sex fiend. Mumbor was plagued by allergies. Brang, narcolepsy. And the aptly named Wisp had a pong even a lutin couldn't stand. Such was Kayrok's company.
But where other lutins saw garbage, kayrok saw possibility. And already, his cunning mind was developing a plan. Squaring his shoulders, he spoke. "Men, I will not lie to you. You are here not as any special honor, but because you are unwanted. You are here because Nasoj's army does not think that it needs you for one reason or another. Because you are too smart. ...Or a woman. ...or a freak. ...or an artisan. These are traits which the lutin army despises. But I want you to consider something. The army of Nasoj has never won a battle against Metamor Keep. You have not been rejected by a victorious army, but by a weak one.
"Great." said Fugu. "We're rejects among losers."
"Exactly!" said Kayrok, brightly. "The lutin army does not know what it has thrown away! I say that you are strong! Pip, you are small, but you have the heart of a lion! Splim, you have made an art of preparing food, but that has not diminished your valor. Barga, you are a woman, but you can best any man here in combat. Ruku, you are not strong, but you know much of military strategy. We have the potential to be the finest platoon the lutin army has ever seen!"
"You have got to be joking." replied Mumbor.
Kayrok ignored him. "My soldiers, my friends, you have two choices. We can approach this mission exactly the way Nasoj expects. OR we can work smarter. Either live without hope or trust me. Do you trust me?"
"Always!" answered Foxtooth.
"Till death!" said Tripe.
Tiro, the fat one, piped up after a moment of quiet. "I trust you a lot more than I trust Nasoj." There was a round of heartfelt agreement.
"All of you, set up camp." said Kayrok. "Except for you, Sytet. I need you to do some surveilance. Go and find the nearest village."
Sytet saluted and replied "As you command", then turned into a bat and flew away to the north.
"Make the camp as comfortable as you like, men." said Kayrok. "We're going to be here for a long time."
* * *
"This is us." said Ruku, pointing to the middle of his map. "On the southern edge of the forest of darkness. This is where the mountains are the thinnest. If we ever hope to break through, our best bet is to go straight south. We'll come out just to the east of Aelfwood."
Kayrok turned to Jun, a powerful mage who had been sent here for being a pacifist. "I asked you to scry out the mineral content of the mountains. What have you discovered?"
"There is silver here." said Jun, pointing to the area Ruku had just indicated. "But there are several veins of gold here. There is copper here... Iron here... and here, a very light and strong metal which does not yet have a name."
Kayrok turned next to Splin, the speaker-to-plants. "Can you confirm this?" he asked.
"The trees in these areas tell me that the soil has a metalic taste where Jun has indicated. But they can't tell one from another."
Kayrok rubbed his chin. "All right. We'll assume that what Jun says is true. Let's avoid the silver as much as possible. We do not need Urik or Sytet getting sick from silver poisoning. Instead, we'll cut a path across the gold, iron and unnamed metal. All right... and we'll aim to come out right between these foothills."
"But Captain," said Ruku. "That's going to be half again as difficult as going straight south. We'll be adding years to our workload!"
"Not necessarily." said Kayrok. "If I have reasoned correctly, it will take years OFF of our workload. Thank you both for your work. You have been most valuable."
Hornbeam called from the forest "Sytet returns!"
Kayrok leapt to his feet and ran to meet the werebat.
"The man is insane." said Ruku. "We're going at almost a 45 degree angle. That's going to mean 1.4 times the work of going straight south!"
Hornbeam, who happened to be passing, said "If Kayrok says we ought to do it, we ought to do it. Trust Kayrok. He has never failed us yet."
"What about Devil's Strand?" said Jun.
"Devil's Strand was an operation doomed to failure." said Hornbeam. But in all the destruction, not a single lutin was lost, save Dimtorch, who perished from his own foolishness. Trust Kayrok."
Ruku sighed. Surely, this would be a miserable lifetime.
* * *
"What news do you have for me, Sytet?"
"The nearest town is approximately ten miles to the north." reported the werebat. "It's called Mountainshade. The resources there are pretty pitiful. It's ruler is a thug by the name of 'Pythonus'. He demands the lion's share of every hunt or gathering and ALL of the women. Once a girl reaches the age of twelve, she is required to join his harem. He maintains power through the threat of force via an enchanted sword which he calls 'Soulrender'. Supposedly, it can destroy the soul of its victim and prevent their ascent to Stormhaven. Besides hunting and gathering, the sole industry there appears to be leather and fur craft. All of the lutins live in tents. Weapons consist primarily of vine rope and javelins. Ten miles northwest of Mountainshade lies the town of Spiritfell and after another ten, there is a highway used primarily by dwarves for transporting metal to the weaponsmiths in the west."
Kayrok raised an eyebrow. "You learned all that on one scouting mission?"
"I do have the ears of a bat." replied Sytet.
"Excellent work." Kayrok praised him. "I only wish I had the resources to reward you suitably. If all goes according to plan, I will." The captain called his squad to gather around. "I need you all to pay very close attention!" he called. "I am going to divide you into two groups. One will go with me on a military mission. We're going to conquer the nearby town of Mountainshade. The other will stay here and begin a special project. There is a waterfall about two miles to the west. I want you to dig a stream and divert some of the water toward our camp." Kayrok then went through and assigned the soldiers to their teams one by one. The artists, the eggheads, the pacifists all went into one group, while the more powerful fighters went into the other. He then surprised everyone when he motioned to the weaker group and said "You're coming with me to take the town."
"Excuse me, Sir." said Qlin, the humanologist. "It sounded as though you said for us to come and take the town."
"Surely you meant our group." said Barga.
"Surely I didn't." answered Kayrok with a smile. "You're the ones with the muscles. I want you doing the heavy work."
"But Sir, we are fighters."
"I know." said Kayrok. "And don't worry, you'll have a chance to see action. But for now, this is the team I need with me. Trust me."
Barga cursed under her breath as the commander departed with what was surely an ill-fated team.
* * *
When Kayrok entered the clearing which housed Mountainshade, he thought that Sytet's report was generous. The lutins here were nearly naked, wearing nothing but loincloths. Their tents were poorly assembled and their only food seemed to be a single leg of vennison roasting over a fire. There were about forty tents in all, and the entire place, including the populace, was filthy. All heads turned to face him as he strode in. "My name is Kayrok of the fireseed tribe." he announced loudly. "I claim this village in the name of the lutin army."
Out of the largest and most elaborate tent came a hunched figure brandishing a large sword. "Who has the audacity?" he demanded.
"Kayrok of the fireseed. Weren't you listening?"
"We have nothing to do with your goose-stepping army!" rasped the village's Alpha. "I am pythonus, and I rule here! Leave now, or I shall destroy you with the soulrender! Mine is the power to destroy your very being! Both body and soul! There shall be no Stormhaven for you if you remain."
"That's very interesting." replied Kayrok, hefting a piece of flagstone. "Well, this here is the soul-saver. It has the power to neutralize your soulrender."
"Liar! That's nothing but a rock!"
"And that's nothing but a sword. Dwarven make, I think. Probably stolen from some poor trader you ambushed on the highway."
The local lutins were gathering around, anxious to see what would happen.
"You have no more power to destroy a soul than a mouse has to swallow a griffin. You're a charletain, Pythonus. A big, fat fraud."
Pythonus lost it. He charged at Kayrok with his sword held high. Kayrok threw the flagstone like a frisbee. It hit Pythonus in the chest, breaking several ribs. As the defeated alpha lay there gasping for breath, Kayrok took the sword. "Heal him up." he told Hornbeam. "I don't need any family members out for vengeance." Then, speaking to the lutins of the village, he announced "There are going to be some changes around here! First, General Ruku is your new mayor!"
Ruku gasped as if he'd been struck. General? Kayrok was a captain. How could he promote someone to general? And why HIM? Ruku was a thinker, not a warrior!
"Second, there will be no more harem. The women shall be free to marry whoever they dang well please!"
At that, there was a great cheer.
"Third, I am going to make this village prosperous. What did Pythonus demand of your income?"
"Nine parts out of ten!" someone called.
"From now on, YOU keep the nine parts! All I ask is ten percent."
Kayrok turned to his own troops. "First order of business: Cut down some of these trees and build real houses."
"That may be a problem." said Ruku. "First of all, you can't promote me to general when you're only a captain. Secondly, we have I think two axes and one saw back at camp. It'll take forever to fell enough trees. And once we have the lumber, where do we get nails? The only metal here is that 'soulrender' thing."
Kayrok grinned. "My dear general, I just became the head of an independent city-state. The way I see it, that makes me a president. Problem one solved. As for problem two, this is where we get creative."
* * *
Smallbeard glanced about nervously as he drove his wagon through the forest. As a cave dwarf, Smallbeard did not like the forest. He longed for the safe shelter of stone and earth. Trees frightened him. And the tall, menacing giants of the dark forest were no exception. He'd driven this road many times with his goat, Bess. This evening, however, he could feel something lurking in the woods, watching him.
"Is everybody ready?" Kayrok whispered.
Zin reached over and smacked Brang, who had fallen asleep. "We are now, Sir."
"Wait until he's right in front of us. We don't want to have to chase him. When I give the signal..."
"Sir!" whispered Qlin. "The sun is setting!"
Kayrok immediately understood. He looked over at Urik, who was already beginning to change as the last rays of the sun disappeared.
"Oh, great!" said Zin in the voice of his alter-ego, Zan. "All we need is for Urik to change into a duck or a hamster."
But Urik did not change into a hamster. He grew. His green skin turned an even darker green as scales formed all over him. A tail burst through his pants and massive claws appeared on his feet. His arms didn't change much, but the rest of him turned massive and pointy. "What kind of dragon is that?" asked Jora.
"A Tyranosaurus Rex!" replied Booli. "By Stormhaven, it's beautiful!"
Urik jumped out onto the highway in all of his saurian glory, roaring past a mouthful of razor sharp teeth at the dwarf and his goat. The goat fainted. Then the dwarf did, too. The last thing Smallbeard saw was an enormous maw of teeth coming toward him.
* * *
"And when he did come back, he was covered in fur like a polar bear! It wasn't for no reason we called 'im Dimtorch." Redfoot took another swig of his ale and stared into the fire as his companions laughed. It was absolutely horrible the way Dimtorch has died, and the memory made him shudder a bit. But he had to admit that at that particular moment when he returned from the forbidden lake, Dimtorch had appeared pretty funny.
"That reminds me of this one fellow back home." said Udge. "Wonderful fellow. He was the kind who'd give up half of his supper if he thought you were hungry. But he had this tail he'd cut from a dire fox. The guy wore it."
"Wore a dire fox tail?" said Mumbor with a sniffle.
"Wore it everywhere. Said he wanted to be a fox, or at least some kind of animal. He even talked about going to the keep on the off chance the curse might somehow work on him."
"That has to be the most..." whatever Mumbor might have said next was cut off by the arrival of a tyranosaurus in the camp pulling a wagon full of metal, lutins, a goat and an unconscious dwarf.
"Untie me!" Smallbeard demanded when he came to, hours later.
"You're not tied up." called Kayrok. "You're sleeping on your hands."
Smallbeard stood up. "Bess!" he cried, looking at the beast roasting over the fire. "You're eating my goat!"
"Your goat's right over there." reported Sujan. "This is a dik-dik."
"Oh. Well, you... um... where am I, anyway? and who are you?"
Kayrok rose and bowed. "Kayrok of the fireseed tribe, at your service. High commander of the Omega Squadron, president of Mountainshade, and chief miner of this mine."
If dwarf ears could move, Smallbeard's would have perked. "Mine, you say?"
"It's a new mine. Not even started, really. We're still setting up. By the way, Sujan, how did you finish the stream so quickly?"
"The river comes within a mile of camp right over there. With sixteen diggers, that's thirty-three yards per lutin. You should have seen Mipo go when he realized that finishing the stream at that pit over there meant the possibility of a bath."
"Wait, back up." said Smallbeard. "Where am I? and why did you bring me and Bess here? And what's with the dragon?"
"In order," said Kayrok. "At Omega Squad base camp, We need your shipment of metal, and he's a random shape-changer."
"you're stealing my metal?" said Smallbeard with a squeak in his voice. "But this metal is bound for Nasoj's forges! It's needed for making weapons! They'll have my head!"
"Not stealing. Comandeering. We need it to make nails and tools. And don't worry. Nasoj's army won't come after you, seeing as how you were tragically eaten by a rogue dragon. So sad the way you were never heard from again."
"This is outrageous!" shouted the dwarf.
"Tell me, do you like driving through the woods?"
"No. I hate it!"
"So why do you do it?"
"I've no choice! I'm a slave. Nasoj'll gut me alive if I don't do my duty."
Kayrok leaned toward the dwarf and grinned. "Come work for me." he said. "Help me to dig this mine. Not as a slave, but as a free man, working for pay. You can live in the caves and you never need see another tree again."
"But what about the Overlord?"
"Accept my offer and all they will find of you is the remains of your wagon and a few spatters of blood."
"Some cow. The wagon, bits of timber. We'll even take some bits of metal back so that it looks authentic."
Smallbeard held out his hand. "Mister goblin, you've got yourself a new employee!"