This is a Chain story passed between @zakludick and @fromage. Each writer authors a post based on the events of previous episodes and carries on the story.
There is very little collusion between the writers as it is challenging to discover and develop a story by attuning the writing to the partner's plot, style, and presentation.
Last time on The Autumn Keep
Griffin and the Beast race for the dubious safety of the Keep. Within they find a man who delivers to them a dire message: None that enter leave.
The man, who seemed both ancient and youthful stared into Griffin's eyes.
The eyes were the only things that seemed constant in the man's face. They were vibrant and full of power. The man could not be human, there was an aura about him, a power. Sparse white hair was replaced with a head of thick black hair in an instant. Wrinkled features became smooth. As soon as the process of becoming young completed then it all ran in reverse.
But it was not only age, the styles of hair and facial hair on the man changed constantly, as though time sped through an assortment of timelines.
"None who enter here leave..." The figure wheezed, a quiver in his voice.
"... those who disobey..." The man continued in a youthful and strong voice. "Suffer for their disobedience."
The Beast growled next to Griffin, he could sense its anxiety and frustration. It flexed its claws, which cut furrows into the polished granite floors of the chamber.
The room was tall, with arched ceilings. Torches on the wall only dimly illuminated the apex more than a hundred feet above. The figure sat in an unorthodox throne of some sort, made of wood. It was a masterpiece but did not contain a shred of gold. Neither did the man wear a crown.
"I am sorry Sir." Griffin called, his own voice seemed swallowed in the open space. "I am..."
"You are the brave, but hapless son of a Knight." The fluctuating figure interrupted. "You are Griffin Ochtendzwaard."
"I... uh... yes..." Griffin stammered. "How could you know? I am on my way to my uncle in Tamor. "
"I know many things..." The figure rose and walked towards Griffin. "You would want something to eat... your friend as well. Come, I shall get you both something to fill your bellies before the hard part comes."
The Beast nudged Griffin with its snout. "What is the changing man-thing saying?"
"He says that he wants to give us some food to eat." Griffin replied as he followed the man... if it was a man.
"Finally, a man-thing with good sense." The Beast followed behind Griffin. He could feel its hot breath on the back of his neck. Though its maw was massive, and it could rip off his head in a single bite, Griffin felt reassured at the Beast's presence. Griffin could feel that the Beast knew his feelings and it was... amused... perhaps something else he could not quite understand.
They followed the man through a doorway to one side of the chamber, which led to a large kitchen common. The door was wide enough for ten soldiers to march through side by side, so the Beast had no trouble fitting through the opening.
"Excuse me Sir? Who are you?"
The man did not turn. "Ah, good. Not one of those...audacious fellows who ask the obviously ignorant questions first. I am the Master of the Keep. Though I am just the... protector and overseer of this place. You could call me the Castellan. Stay here... fetching food."
There were large wooden tables in three long rows within the kitchen sitting room. A hundred or more men would have been able to feast in this place and yet there was not another soul to be seen. The Castellan seemed to be the only inhabitant of the Keep so far.
Griffin took a seat at the one end of a row of tables. The Beast came to a halt beside him. "Did the man-thing go hunting?"
"I do not think so."
"If there is no meat, then I will eat him." The Beast did not seem to be making a joke. Somehow it did not bother Griffin to think that the Beast has probably killed and consumed humans before.
It was the way the Beast-speak functions that caused this certainty. Intentions were plain to Griffin to feel. He thought now that it would be so much better to live this way amongst humans... if he ever saw another one in his life again.
The Castellan returned with a tray in each hand. With an easy grace and without any apparent strain he placed before Griffin a cooked meal of vegetables and beef. Before the Beast was set down a large haunch of meat, Griffin was not sure what it was.
"Good!" The Beast said and began eating without further ceremony. The Castellan did not seem to be in the least curious about the Beast or its nature.
This deepened Griffin's suspicions of the man, or whatever he was. The Beast was mythical and of epic proportions, like something from a fairytale. On second thought, this man was also a kind of mystical entity.
Griffin nodded his thanks and the man sat on the chair opposite. The Castellan did not have any food for himself. Griffin took a tentative bite of the food. It was good, better food than he had had in many months. He fought the urge to gorge himself on the food. It would not be wise.
After a few moments of relative silence, the Castellan asked. "Why not stay home Griffin? Why travel the Damor Woods in the time of change?"
"My father passed away, so now I go to my uncle to..."
"Your father is not dead."
Chainlink 9 completed!
Now the torch is passed back to @fromage to add in Chainlink 10 of the story!
Chainlink 1 by @zakludick
Chainlink 2 by @fromage
Chainlink 3 by @zakludick
Chainlink 4 by @fromage
Chainlink 5 by @zakludick
Chainlink 6 by @fromage
Chainlink 7 by @zakludick
Chainlink 8 by @fromage