Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Ancient Spyglass

The Dwarves of Karak Debaz had toiled beneath the Cicatrice Peaks for decades, carving great halls and vaults into the earth that could rival those legendary keeps of the World’s Edge Mountains. Great was their splendour, and King Undin was pleased. Yet deeper still the Dwarves delved through and beneath the mountains and their efforts did not go unrewarded. The Dwarf miners discovered a lost treasure vault beneath Mount Uvala. Who had left this hoard remained a mystery to the Dwarf miners- many suspected it to be the plunder of some long-departed Dragon. Whoever (or whatever) had left this fortune, it appeared they had vanished without any other trace save the wealth they left behind.

Amongst the hoard were untold rubies, diamonds, sapphires and other gems, and hundreds of golden coins marked one side with an eagle and the other with the portrait of a human king. Still there was more, ornate ceremonial weapons and armour, jewelled plates and goblets, and marble statues of ancient heroes of some long-dead civilisation. In amongst all this there was a spyglass; a delicate object no larger than a roll of parchment, exquisitely crafted in ebony and decorated with a lattice-work of gold filigree. At its end were eight sliding arms each circling a differently coloured lens, and each could be moved to overlap the others. When presented with the treasure, the Dwarf King was duly impressed with the craftsmanship of the spyglass but no Dwarf at court could fathom the purpose of such an ornate device. It was Elthruin, the ambassador from Mellvellon, who seemed most interested in the spyglass. He explained to Undin that this was a legendary artefact and assured the king that the Elves of Mellvellon would pay a handsome sum should he be prepared to part with it. Undin was at first hesistant, but distracted as he was by the other great treasures before him he soon forgot the spyglass and it was locked up with all the other trinkets for which the Dwarves could find little use. Meanwhile Elthruin sent word of the find to the court of Dragonspire.

It was not until some years later, when Prince Saravael of Mellvellon landed his fleet at Kazad Varr, that the spyglass once again came to King Undin’s attention. The Prince arrived with all the pomp and circumstance that the Dwarves had come to expect of Elven kind. He hailed the noble King Undin and showered him with accolades and tributes. He sought the eternal friendship of Udin and his kin. Saravael presented his offering to King Undin; his retainers brought forth seven golden statues, each the size of an ogre, all crafted in the likenesses of one the ancient dragons of legend. All he asked in return was that King Undin seal their friendship by making a gift of the ancient spyglass. Undin was a wise king and saw the value of making allies of the Elves of Mellvellon (not to mention the value of their gold!). Ever the Dwarf, he could not resist a good haggle. Undin declared that a gift of seven golden dragons was somewhat miserly but that twelve such statues would be a sufficiently kingly gift to prove the friendship of the Elves. Negotiations quickly began to ruffle the various egos, and the talks degenerated into argument and insult. With pride dented, there could only be one outcome.

So it was that, ten days later, the army of King Undin marched out onto the foothills of Karak Debaz to meet the host of the Dragon Lords on the field of battle, that honour might be restored in the greatest and most elaborate duel ever staged on Palurin. Spectators gathered on the ramparts of the fortress, and the two great lords themselves watched from the balcony of the King Undin’s chamber. Each had named his champion to lead the respective armies. Gil-Falain the Fair commanded the Elven warhost, and Algrim Stonebreaker stood as defender of Dwarven pride.

The duel raged fiercely for the whole afternoon, with neither side prepared to give quarter for fear of losing favour as their liege-lords looked on. So it came to a swirling melee at the centre of the battlefield with both armies seemingly in deadlock. It fell to personal combat between Algrim, borne above throng on Undin’s own shield, against Gil-Falain, who sat astride the fiery-tempered drake Taurvellon. The fight was fierce but brief. Though Algrim landed many grievous blows he was unceremoniously squashed beneath Taurvellon’s scaly claw. King Undin’s guard, outraged by the defeat of their champion, promptly hewed down the great wyrm where it stood.

But it was too little too late. The Red Dragon’s, Saravael’s household guard, swept in to the fray to cut down the remaining Dwarf warriors and thus carry the day for the Elves. The matter had been decided, and Undin was forced to concede victory to Saravael. His pride forced him to choke back his grievance that Saravael had sent a dragon into the duel (after he had boasted that a Dwarf champion of such renown could best any foe).

Saravael left Karak Debaz with the ancient spyglass. He had been hugely impressed by the martial prowess of the Dwarf warriors (and secretly he had feared at one point that he had lost the contest). As a mark of deference to such skill in battle, he gifted King Undin with nine golden statues. Seven were the dragons he had brought from Mellvellon. The final two were newly-crafted, one in the likeness of King Undin and the other that of Prince Saravael. He suggested that they might stand side by side in Undin’s hall as a mark of friendship between the two rulers. Even the flinty Undin could not help but be moved by the gesture and the respect shown to the Dwarf warriors. Oaths of comradeship were sealed that day and thus was formed the alliance between Karak Debaz and Dragonspire.

Back on Mellvellon, Saravael had the arch-mages of Dragonspire demonstrate the secret of the spyglass to the Dragon Lords assembled at court. Each of the different lenses could allow the user to observe the ebb and flow of one of the eight winds of magic. With newly-built ships flying enchanted sails the fleet captains would be freed from relying on the four winds to steer their vessels. Now they would be able to harness the winds of magic to power the Elven fleet to victory.

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