Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Great Betrayal [Repost]

Olwe Lorearthen has never been comfortable talking to strangers and shallow acquaintances. But once he garnered the courage to share the story of his people with his adopted family during the long sea journey to Cold Harbor, he was filled with the comfortable warmth of friendship by their response. And just a few evenings later when he was again asked about his family's lore, he recalled for his new friends an encounter he once had with a small band of bardic elves whom he came upon traveling through the Iron Mountains not far from his home with the Mineshadow clan. After liquor had flowed and family histories had been shared, the elves told Olwe a tragic tale from their ancient folk culture - of a hard-hearted elven prince and of a great guilt born by his kin. And in their tale Olwe believed he had found a clue to the lost history of his own people.

The elven bards sang of the once-noble elven family of Magesblood, who happened upon a lost clan of dwarves, near starvation, mindlessly wandering through the low shoulders of a mountain range of now lost to history, somewhere deep below our Central Sea. Feeling great pity and compassion, the Elves brought the few surviving dwarves into their care. The wretched creatures that they had saved, however, immediately pleaded to be allowed to press on their journey for fear of condemning their charitable hosts to a terrible fate. The dwarves claimed to be a cursed clan, in exile from the ancient land of their creation far beyond even the Northgaard.

These lost and wandering dwarves told the elves a tale of a narrow escape from annihilation at the hands of their creator, Belfire the child-god. In the first days, the child-god loved his creation, who he named the Wilward. He adored watching them grow and thrive in the deep hollows and shadowy mountain passes he made for them anew each day. And they played together in the shadows, Belfire and the Wilwards, and his dwarves entertained him with their many fine creations. The child-god and his creations were inseparable during the early days of the world and they kept each others quiet company during the long nights. Their deep fondness for one another's company was obvious in the ways they sang and they drank together. And the Wilward told their elven saviors how they used to build giant towers of stone that reached high into the clouds with the assistance of Belfire, and how they would all rejoice together when the time came to destroy the towers just for the satisfaction of watching them fall. But as the Wilward grew and explored the world about them, they gradually discovered that their true home was under the mountain.

The depths of the mountains were never more than a playground to the child-god, however, and certainly never a place he would care to consider his home. And soon the Wilward were venturing out only during the daylight hours to play and sing and destroy with Belfire, and doing this increasingly out of a sense of duty and obligation to their creator. Eventually, as the wonders of their dark mountain paradise were just beginning to unfold before them, they stopped coming outside to entertain the child-god at all, and the place in their lives that their creator and playmate once occupied was gradually replaced with an obsession for geological nuance and a fetishistic lust for digging deeper for the sake of deeper.

The Wilward grew to love their home and the life they had with one another, and they came to no longer think of Belfire, and to no longer need him nor desire that he be near them.

The empty, hollow feeling of rejection shook the child-god into great fits of resentment and wrath. He quickly grew to hate his creation, and he stove to crush them in their rocky hideaways, tearing down the highest peaks and crushing vast slopes between his palms, sending exploding cascades of stone and pebble high into the sky, blotting out the sun. Day after day and night after night he unleashed his fury on the mountainside, laying it to waste with a violent force. Belfire killed to the last all those he found there and he destroyed their wondrous mountain halls and castle keeps, as well as their great storehouses and palaces and the libraries containing their histories and genealogies. Those few that survived secretly descended from the mountain one evening, and while the child-god slept they made their escape south, marching in shock and sadness, until they found themselves, after years of exodus, in the custodial care of the Magesblood elves.

The bards' song stirred Olwe's chest when they memorialized the great familial trust that grew between the Magesblood Elves and the Wilward over the five hundred years spent in their care. The many elves of Magesblood, led by their beloved king and father Olokul, agreed to take upon themselves the heavy moral burden of supporting and defending these vulnerable and pitiable creatures from the dangers of wider world. And, above all, the Magesblood Elves swore an oath to the Wilward: that they would forever keep their existence a secret, in order that Belfire would never again hear of them and that his hatred be reignited. 

It was only with the help of the Magesblood that the Wilward were able to dig deeply into a great cliff and hew a new home for themselves, hidden from all above. And it was during the early days with the elves that it was decided that the Wilward would never again show their faces on the surface, excepting when summoned by the great all-clear bell called Gentleharp by the Elves, which was used to call all to common council. Still much trafficking continued to take place between the savoir elves and those they had saved, and as a true bond of friendship grew between them, the elves initiated these lost dwarves into their secret rituals, practices and techniques of armored magic.

Five hundred years did the bond of the Magesblood and the Wilward last. It was during the final years of the reign of the King Petdak the Wise, called "The Weak King" by his own people, that an ambitious prince seized power for himself leaving his father with only nominal control of their small but respected kingdom. The prince, Adokas, coveted the great golden fields and valleys just beyond the Magesblood borders, and he especially desired to control the high and broad plateau that loomed over the fields. For from this high vantage point one could build an unassailable garrison and control all the entrances to the wide valley and, consequently, control the main gateway to each of the Five Kingdoms. 

Adokas was certainly not the first empire-building Elf of the region to recognize the strategic significance of the plateau. In his own day one could easily find on its broad and flat expanse remnants and artifacts all pointing to the existence of several older Elven forts, each designed to serve as a defensive stronghold against any invading armies who attempted to march across the valley below. But Adokas was the first ruler willing to sacrifice the long-established practice of peaceful detente to his own wild ambition.

It was during these years of Adokas' ascendance that the Roman legions began to appear in the south for the first time in the long history of the Magesblood elves. These bloody and ruthless fighters, although small in number in the first years, were quickly recognized by each of the Five Kingdoms to be a force unlike any they had seen before, possessing a power through coordination and sheer force of arms that none could hope to match should they desire land and pitch for battle. But in these early years, the legions were content to collect a small tribute and only the threat of violence was necessary to get them what they wanted.

As Roman power and influence grew steadily in the region, the young prince Adokas seized his moment. He struck a quarrel with a once-friendly neighbor over some insignificant matter, quickly marshaled his unwitting father's support, and mounted a force of arms ready to act at his command to control the plateau should the right occasion present itself. Adokas then parlayed with a nearby Roman garrison, sharing advice and secret testimony of the weaknesses of his newly forged enemy, aiding the Romans in their requests on such matters as troop and defensive positioning. As much as they wanted he tried his utmost to provide. And as the Roman legions moved in to destroy the problem Adokas had purposely created, he was in the Mage's Temple to celebrate the death of his father with his own coronation. And he was supremely satisfied that his deepest ambitions had nearly come to pass.

But his secret sharing proved his great undoing, for the illicit testimony he provided proved worse than useless to the storming legions, and the Romans suffered a tremendous defeat with many loses as they moved on his suggestions. The enraged Roman's threatened the young king and extorted him with the pain of a violent and bloody death. To escape their persecution, Adokas quickly betrayed the oath of his people - their sworn commitment to protect the lost Wilward dwarves. But all Adokas could see in them now was their value as the only of their race possessed of the secret of the duskblade. And on a fateful red morning, Adokas emerged from the Mage's Temple with Gentleharp in hand, and, laying prostrate at the feet of the enraged general, presented it to the insatiable Roman horde, as if delivering unto them great riches.

At the ringing of the trusted bell, all Wilward men, women and children emerged from their cavernous sanctuary and assembled in regular fashion, and it was here that they met the cruelty of the Roman whip and spear for the first time, but most certainly not the last. By day's end the children of Belfire were gone. And as news spread, the Magesblood elves were filled with inconsolable lament for the fate of their dearest friends. But, alas, they did nothing more than lament, for none ever sought the emancipation of their former charges, and none spoke publicly against the great betrayal of Adokas. It was as if the depth of the betrayal was simply too much to stand against, and they chose instead the easier path of collective denial.

Their deep fears were well-founded, or so it seems, for Olwe's bardic companions knew no other story, tale, or song that spoke any more of these cursed dwarves or their plight.

"But what of Adokas?" Olwe asked with great pain at the end of the tale. "For surely that devil received his due for his crimes against such a fine people." But the bards knew only one tale that might ease Olwe's great sorrow and quench his thirst for vengeance. In the end the Magesblood line splintered into a thousand shards well before the Great Flooding, they told Olwe, and today this once-great elven family exists no more except in the song and verse known only to a few. 

They told him all the rest that they knew - that King Adokas lived a great many years until he himself was treacherously overthrown by a combined force of the other four Great Kingdoms, whose trust and goodwill he had squandered. His final moments, the bards recounted, are said to have been spent sealed inside a tomb of smooth rock, somewhere very dark and cold and very very deep within the now-lost Wilward's once-thriving mountain keep. His conquerors, it is said, did this as both a small gesture towards redemption and as warning to all against ambition.

3 comments:

Aeschere said...

Thanks for a repost of another classic Drowned World epic, if indeed there is such a thing. It's nice to have these back after I FUBARed the old blog.

In answer to one of your questions from another thread, there will be a post on the current culture and political hierarchy of Kharschum.

post festum said...

Hey thanks dm! I thought the fact that we've new players and that I was about to post something new were perfect enough excuses to resurrect another story.

But, come on! Is no one going to comment on the picture? A genuine "Roman dwarf" circa 2nd century CE. Frankly the story was an excuse for the picture...

Ironbeard said...

Maybe if the dwarf had bigger breasts . . .