I’ve got so much campaign prep to get done that if I don’t do it here, I’ll either never get it done in time…
Chapters 18-20 are all in final form. I don’t change “speaker” in mid-paragraph, but the speaker does change from one paragraph to the next. So if it seems like the tone changes direction suddenly – sometimes it does.
The Second Great Dwarfwar: Dwarven Incursion
The delegation returned to the King and his Council with word that the Dwarves were more arrogant and stiff-necked and unreasonable than ever, and claimed all the forest save that which had been transformed by the Elven Arts as their own, to do with what they willed; and that they were impolite and disrespectful to the person and Title of the Elvish King; and that not even the threat of hostilities had moved them to bargain in good faith.
“That was their final word?” asked the King.
“No, your majesty. Their last words were, ‘Kiss my Braided Beard, You poncy snob. We’ll give you more war than you can stomach if you set foot in our domain again.”
The council all agreed that this was unacceptable, a direct challenge to the stewardship of the forest by the Elves, which was a sacred trust with which they had been charged by Corellan himself. They had no choice but to accept that the Dwarves had given just cause for a declaration of War. “In any event,” argued some, “it would be well to learn how to fight in the tunnels and holes deep beneath the earth, for sooner or later we must confront the Drow once more.”
Only one major objection could be raised: the Elves had not yet formed a military force with which to respond to this threat. Even as the council retired to consider solutions to this conundrum, which now assumed an urgency that had not previously been felt necessary, word arrived that another Dwarven expedition had been sighted felling trees, and lighting fires which they were directing toward Elvarheim itself.
The inner forest would not burn easily, the Elves knew; but this latest assault on top of recent events made it clear that the Dwarves were being belligerent in the extreme, and escalated the Elvish need from ‘Urgent’ to ‘Dire’. Lacking any other solution, the Elvish Priests appealed to Corellan to solve this problem before Elvarheim itself came under direct threat.
And Lo, the most holy Corellan didst hear the anguished beseechments of his people, and he came to comfort and guide them, as he had promised; and he did say unto his people, bring before me the Noletinechor, and it was done, and Corellan in his wisdom and majesty didst say unto them, “Ye have been chosen by your kin to be the guardians of all that is Elvish. This is a high honor indeed, but the designs of those who ordained your order are incomplete, for to be a guardian is to do more than shelter and remember, it is to protect, nurture, cherish, and teach. This is a sacred trust, the stewardship of the spirit of the Elven peoples and all that makes them great and good in the eyes of Nature, and I charge you with the duty of forever being worthy of such trust. I shall call forth those Totems who are gifted in battle, and together we will teach you that which you will need to discharge this duty and trust, guardians worthy to succeed the Verdonne. And you shall issue forth with the most skilled hunters and warriors of the Elven people to repel this and any future invasion.
“And when this crisis doth abate, you shall establish, in some far distant place, a fortress, a bulwark, to be the home of your order, and the seed from which all may begin anew should the worst befall your people, for yours is a difficult and lonely task that shall persist until the last Elf is no more. You must keep alive the traditions and songs and cultures of your people, resisting those changes which are alien to its nature, and yet permitting the race and society of the beloved of nature to grow and evolve as its nature doth decree.”
And the then-beloved Spider-queen of the Drow, Lolth, scrying from afar, was infuriated, for Her plans to take advantage of the Elvish vulnerability had failed. It had seemed a simple proposition: a few Drow in stolen Dwarvish boots, a few carelessly-guarded trees, and one enemy would destroy another. But the plot had failed to allow for the interference of Corellan, and it never paid to ignore a God when devising your tactics – an error that she would not repeat on future occasions. And still worse, it might well result in teaching her enemies how to fight more effectively underground, in an environment all-too-similar to that of Her people, costing their own defenses a tactical advantage that might be irreplaceable.
It was all the fault of Her military advisors, of course, and several were promptly made the centre of attention at a public beheading at which their failures were publicly announced to all, object lessons in the consequences of failing their Queen.
The Second Great Dwarfwar: The Huyundaltha
It proved less easy than Corellan had made it seem. The Noletinechor were artists and musicians and dancers, and while they had received basic instruction in bow and sword, that instruction had been abandoned in favor of a more cultural education. When it came to martial matters, they were hesitant and clumsy. With the need pressing, Corellan and the totems he had summoned devised, in desperation, a martial style founded apon the delicate dance steps that the guardians of culture had mastered, using two equal weapons for balance; a style that combined grace and elegance, mobility and nimbleness of foot and hand, into a lethal art. And this art he did name Ondaltha, and to the Noletinechor he gave the title Huyundaltha,’Masters Of The Ondaltha’, or (literal translation), “Bladedancers”.
Thus it was that the Noletinechor were transformed into a martial order, their mandate extended to the protection of the Elven homeland and way of life, and the replacement for the Verdonne. Satisfied, Corellan departed, having faith in his people’s ability to chart their own course, make their own mistakes, and live their own lives.
The Bladedancers were amateurs at this ‘war’ business, and they started by making a lot of amateur mistakes. The exterior of the Dwarven Mines were undefended, and rather than giving them pause, this encouraged the Bladedancers to take advantage of this overt defensive weakness. They had not realized that the entrances were unguarded purely to lure would-be attackers into a realm shaped by the Dwarves in a manner not dissimilar to that of Elvarheim; a giant trap in which the architecture itself was a weapon. In their preferred habitat, the Dwarves were just as at home, and just as deadly, as the Elves were within their forest.
Gathering a band of twenty aggressive young warriors, the Bladedancer Hoddell penetrated the mineshaft, ignoring the gong at the entrance, and descended into the depths, and promptly become lost in the twisting, turning maze of tunnels. Four days later, they found themselves at the entrance once again, having never seen a Dwarf, returning to Elvarheim tired, thirsty and covered in dust. Undeterred, they tried again, and this time never returned.
Expedition after expedition followed, and slowly the Elves learned many of the secrets of navigation below ground – systematic exploration, mapping, always following one wall, dropping markers at key intersections. Eventually, some reached the second layer of underground defenses, only to be lured into deadfalls, or pits, or pockets of foul air, or chambers that were then flooded by Dwarves, or galleries with many narrow slots in the walls for weapons to penetrate while the wielders remained safely behind solid rock.
After 24 years of sporadic and wholly-unsuccessful expeditions and adventures below the ground, Deruan, leader of the Bladedancers, reached the inevitable conclusion that if the Elves continued to conduct their war on Dwarven terms, they would lose it. Their foes were the masters of their domain, and inherently superior in skill over the Elves while within it. In order to emerge victorious, they would need to change strategies, and to make the Dwarven environment work against the residents and not in their favor. While all conceded the need to change tack, the strategies that Deruan proposed were extreme, radical, and ruthless, and caused many to have misgivings. Those in opposition described them as too similar to what might have been expected of their estranged cousins, the Drow, and questioned once again whether the Elves had been right to start this war in the first place.
Many on the council considered this a healthy debate for the society. A proper understanding of the question, and of why the Elves had made the decision to go to war, could only yield a greater insight into the natures of the Elvish people themselves, to the unending benefit of their society. But to the Bladedancers, this was cowardice akin to high treason against the Elvish race, and they denounced those who opposed and undermined their efforts towards Victory. THEY were the nominated guardians of society, who had sacrificed their personal liberties to this sacred cause, and as such, their decrees should supersede those of the Council in matters of the defense of the realm and the prosecution of war. So aroused and inflamed were passions over the issue that the Council had no choice but to bar Deruan from their deliberations, lest tempers lead to a impasse that could only result in violence, one Elf against another, an act so heinous that it had led to the ostracizing of the Drow.
For the moment, Deruan was able to invoke the blessing and authority of Corellan, and override the concerns of the Council, and press forward with his plans. His strategy was four-fold. The Totem Spirits were beseeched for their aid, causing Rabbits and other burrowing creatures to search out the source of the waters that fed into the Dwarven realm; these would be acidified. In the process, the entrances which funneled clean, fresh, air to the depths would be found; they would be poisoned with noxious fumes. Trees would be planted in every crack and crevice, and spellwoven to grow their roots faster and more deeply, widening the cracks and destabilizing the walls and ceilings of the Dwarven halls. And many forest creatures, and other creatures who preferred an underground existence, would have their natures altered through Spellweaving to make them larger, more aggressive, and more fitted to living deep beneath the surface, then released into the tunnels to make their homes; deadly foes with which to vex the subterranean Dwarves and compete with them for food and water and living space.
Fifty-three years of superficial peace passed before all was prepared, with the Bladedancers suppressing all expressions of doubt or concerns over morality, as they single-mindedly pursued what they regarded as their sacred trust.
The Second Great Dwarfwar: A Dwarven Perspective
Lolth had not repeated Her error in ignoring those who shared Her preference for living within a completely controlled underground environment. She had sought to use the Dwarves as pawns, weapons against Her true enemies, the followers of Corellan, he who would unmake Her, in a rare moment of their vulnerability. Although superficially successful, this plan had backfired tremendously. But Lolth was a realist, despite all Her grand schemings, and possessed of a rare instinct for survival; no matter what the situation She was presented with, She would always seek (and usually find) a way to turn events to Her advantage. Even as a long twenty-four years of defensive engagements between the Dwarves and the surface Elves began, She undertook the difficult and dangerous task of establishing diplomatic relations with the Dwarves.
The initial approach was fraught with danger, and several diplomatic missions were slain by the Dwarves before the envoys they carried could be conveyed to the Dwarvish Court. But these were expendable lackeys, unimportant in overall life, and easily replaced. Approach after approach was attempted, until random chance found a successful formula: one of the envoys on this occasion was a Drow of great size and strength, a Giant amongst his people. and it so happened that he challenged the leader of the Dwarven Patrol that he encountered to a wrestling match for the honor of being escorted to the King.
Aberzherisharde was the name given to this walking mountain, and when his challenge was curtly rejected, he mocked the Dwarven Patrol as cowards. A known hot-head, who had been sentenced to this duty for brawling in defiance of Lolth’s Laws, there were several amongst the Spider-Queen’s advisors who thought his selection to be most unwise; but Lolth’s instruction overrode any debate, and so he found himself bandying insults with the leader of the Patrol.
Knowing the Dwarven nature now, as they did not know it then, it is clear that this was in fact the perfect response to the situation. He Challenged the Dwarven Arrogance, stung the Dwarven Pride, and then engaged in a game of friendly insults in which he took as good as he gave, all in tones that showed that he did not take the insults directed toward him personally. As the game wore on, and minutes became hours, the nature of the insults being exchanged gradually evolved into a series of backhanded compliments; insults of which the target could take pride at being accused. In due course, the Patrol Leader, Khalzesh, agreed to convey the deputation to the Dwarvish Crown under his personal protection, and at last Lolth’s message could be conveyed to the King.
These deputations had been comprised of carefully selected malcontents, given personal and private instruction by the Queen Herself in their deportment, and had their families held hostage to ensure their full cooperation. Not even the Priestesses and House Matrons were permitted to know of the instructions they carried; were these to become public knowledge, they could have undermined the very foundations of Drow Society. No members of a delegation would ever be permitted to interact with ordinary members of their society again, something of which they had not been informed prior to the undertaking of their missions. Only when the Drow peoples lost our [their] Dark Queen was the truth revealed, as the surviving members of the diplomatic corps were discovered living in hidden harems of untold luxury and zero liberty. (The Matrons who discovered them heard their words, but (under the-then-operative circumstances) could not permit themselves to accept such blasphemy, and executed them all immediately). Only when Lolth was restored, and abandoned Her people, were their words remembered, reconsidered, and found trustworthy, even insightful:
The diplomats began with a humble apology from the Spider Queen for the mistakes of the past, while deflecting most of the blame onto the House Matrons of the time, and especially the Princess whose ambitions had enmeshed all three participant races in the Prince Of Lies affair. They filled the Dwarven Hall with tales of the torture and retribution exacted apon those deemed by Her to be principally responsible for dishonoring their people. Nevertheless, Lolth Herself admitted that She had erred in Her handling of the matter, and was just as fallable as any ruler. In recognition of what this had cost the Dwarven peoples, She offered recompense in the form of rare gems and minerals that had been wrested from deep beneath the earth, deeper even than the Dwarven Tunnels could reach; Rubies and Sapphires and Adamant Ore, which (when refined by those with sufficient skill and expertise, which Her people lacked) would yield a metal named Adamantium.
This blend of humility, nobility, and pride – backed up by wergild – appealed to the Dwarven King, as every word reinforced his innate senses of pride and moral superiority. From that point, steady progress was made, despite the occasional diplomatic stumble.
After some years of periodic hostility between Dwarves and Elves, the Drow came to the Dwarves, and said, “It seems that we now find ourselves with enemy common, and that our expertise and experience might benefit you in your current hostilities should matters develop in an unseemly manner.”
To which the Dwarves replied, “Our homes are our weapons. Those who trespass are little more than an annoyance, a rabble who we need no aid to overcome.”
And the Drow Envoy replied, “And we hope that this remains the case. We have no desire to disparage your capabilities; but if it should come to pass that the pattern of this conflict should change unexpectedly, we wish your Royal Highness to know that we are at your disposal for advice and assistance.”
Once again, life in the tunnels returned to a routine, and the Drow bided their time, until the day arrived when the Dwarves looked back apon the year past and realized that the Elves had discontinued their futile assaults. And the Dwarves were greatly puzzled, for this sudden absence was not expected of the Elvish Character; even the Dwarves acknowledged that. Next to them, the Elves were the most tenacious race in existence.
So it was that the King, who had been but a young Prince when the offer had been extended, summoned the Drow diplomatic representatives and asked for their interpretation of the change. And the Drow Ambassador said, “You are correct, as always, your Majesty. Our surface brethren would not simply stop; they would either concede and negotiate a peaceful settlement of your differences, or they would withdraw to change tactics, conceding your people’s mastery of the battlefield. Any other enemy would accept that they have been beaten, but our surface brethren have no honor, and will stoop to any depths to achieve a victory they do not deserve.
“Since there have been no peace envoys, the war between you continues unabated. We see but two possible courses for their conduct of this war: either they will seek to create some great provocation to lure you out into an environment where they hold the advantage, and will do so soon, or they will seek to turn your advantage against you by arcane means, which will take much longer. The solution to the first we leave to your own tactical acumen; but should battle not resume in a handspan of years, we shall return to discuss how best we might contribute to the countering of these underhanded tactics.”
Five years later, they returned, and said to the King, “Greetings, your Highness, from your sister Monarch, Queen Of Spiders. In the name of our close bonds of friendship have we come to discuss the tactical support that our people can provide you in your quest for justice from our common enemy, the Elves of the surface. Our Queen bids you to understand Her position on these matters from the outset, lest false expectation should undermine the friendship that has been forged between us; this is your war, not ours, and while we wish to you every success in this matter, we cannot fight your battles for you. Nor do we expect that such a brave and noble people as yourselves would expect anything less of those who respect your most sterling qualities.”
To which the Dwarf-king replied, “We would never ask another to fight our battles for us, you have the right of that; yet, this then begs the question: if you so not offer the strength of force of arms, what value do you then attach to this friendship that you will not fight for it? What assistance will you render, in the name of the friendship your Queen professes, that the cynical amongst us should not dismiss them as merely an empty platitude?”
This was troublesome for the diplomats, revealing as it did a measure of wit that they had not previously attributed amongst the King’s gifts. The King had matured greatly since their previous visit, it was true; perhaps in the case of Dwarves, wisdom came apon them suddenly, when the weight of accumulated experiences suddenly forged associations of understanding, where for other races this developed more gradually over the course of time. Choosing his words with care, the Envoy answered, “Your words, in effect, do say unto us: ‘Friendship is easily professed, but true friendship requires deeds of fidelity’. We accept that burden in the name of our Queen, may She be ever-blessed, and convey from Her many promises of aid of practical value unto you.
“Firstly, we bring word of what She and Her advisors have Divined of the underhanded and unworthy stratagem to be employed by the surface dwellers; it is our Queen’s belief that they will turn the waters you drink, the rock you tunnel, and yea, even the very air that you breathe against you, in a bid to drive you from your homes forever, into the ambush that they will have prepared; and that should this be insufficient, they will release horrors and fell beasts unimaginable to plague your daily lives, for they are corrupting the very creatures that they profess to guard and protect into abominations most horrifying and perverse to do battle in their stead. And should this come to pass, our Queen offers refuge for you and your Court and a small army of stalwart Dwarven defenders within our tunnels, and the aid of OUR spinners of spells to the end of undoing this harm to your homes.
“Second, we offer to trade with you food, that you may increase the number of warriors that fight to protect your lands; and shipments of Adamant Ore and unprocessed Mithral, that you may better arm your warriors; and that we will sell these things to your people for gold, and silver, and platinum, and for the black gems that rumor states that you have found in the wash of the underground river that runs through your domain.
“And thirdly, and most greatly, should all come to pass as our Queen has foretold, She bids us to offer unto you this aid: we shall draw aside the curtains of sorcery that protect the surface dwellers and give you the opportunity to strike directly back at the heartland of our mutual foe from beneath their very feet. Should you capture the heart of Elvarheim, you will force our brethren to bargain for peace on your terms, and achieve a total and lasting victory in the war against our mutual foe.”
The King, his countenance unyielding, replied “Those are great gifts of friendship, it must be said; and we are honored to be numbered amongst the friends of the Drow and their Queen, and we are very happy to accept Her offer of trade with our people. In honor of that accord, I shall have the most brilliant of the dark gems of which you speak polished and mounted apon a circlet of purest platinum as a gift to Her, in recognition of Her enlightened rule. Many details remain to be settled, of course, and I in turn would charge unto you this task: to relate unto your Queen that we do not fear the surface Elves, and do not think them capable of inflicting the travails your relate apon us; always, it doth seem to me, those of the surface world wish to hold themselves blameless for the ill that befalls another at their hands, a smugness and self-important superiority that is unmerited, and such deeds would bind their hands to the axe-handle while blood still drips from its blade. Yet, it might be that in this, we are the ones who are mistaken, and should that be the case, only then would we countenance such a dangerous tactic as an invasion of the Elven homeland. In our tunnels, we have the advantage, as they have learned to their great cost; should we have the foolish audacity to brave the leaves of their twisted and defiled forests, it is they who would have that advantage, and we who would do the dying. A foolish bravado is not bravery, just stupidity.”
This set the Ambassador back on his heels; his Queen’s expectation had been that Dwarvish Bravery extended far beyond the point of folly, and that they would leap at the chance of engaging the surface Elves in direct combat; indeed, Her instructions had been for him to permit himself to be reluctantly persuaded to aid in mounting the direct attack as soon as possible, and not as a far-off contingency plan. He was also more than a little concerned that it was he who would have to inform Her that She had underestimated Her people’s Dwarven neighbors – an unenviable position, and one that might prove painfully fatal; few survived the voicing of such criticism.
Fortunately for the Ambassador, the Queen was entirely satisfied with the outcome. She had no doubts of what the followers of Corellan had planned, for She had emplaced spies in their midst; and it would have taken a very blind, deaf, and inept spy indeed for him to have remained unaware of the debate and controversy over the plans of Deruan The Bladedancer. As a result, She was of no doubt that the royal family of the Dwarves would deliver themselves to be hostages of Her good will, subjugating Her Dwarvish neighbors; that the offer of trade for food would see the Dwarves becoming economically dependant apon Her people, and providing them with the resources and ready capital to funnel into the vast espionage apparatus that She envisioned for the future, while refining ore and crafting weaponry that would ultimately be turned to Her ends; and that in the final course of events, the Dwarves would succeed in obliterating the Followers Of Corellan for Her, in response to the war that She had started between them. She was eternal, and could wait.
The Ongoing Elvish Glossary
- Arnost: Simple Speech (Modern “Common”, a human tongue)
- Arrunquessor: Plains Elves
- Ayer: Nuthanori word meaning “Squat”. Mont Ayer is the name of one of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands.
- Calquissir: High Elves
- Corellan: The First
- Drow: “Those Who Dwell Apart” (in Nuthanorl). Added to Ogre by the Drow with the meaning of “Smart”.
- Ellessarune: The “Shining City” of the Tarquessir, home of the Elvish King and capital of the Elven Lands to this day.
- Eltrhinast: “Guiding Spirit”
- Elvarheim: “Blessed Leafy Home”: The Elven Forest, homeland of the Tarquessir and the centre of Elven Power in modern times
- Gilandthor: “The Gathering”, the formal title of the Elvish Council.
- Hithainduil: High Elven Language
- Huyundaltha: “Masters Of The Ondaltha” (literal), “Bladedancers” (colloquial). Formerly Noletinechor, now Guardians Of Elvish Society.
- Ondaltha: A two-weapon combat style based apon Elvish Dance, practiced exclusively by Huyundaltha.
- Illvayssor: “The Other”, a mythical race
- Isallithin: “The Sundered”, a name applied to Aquatic Elves
- King: A human title interpreted by Elves as “speaker to others” and defined as such within their language.
- Magi: A corruption of the Zamiel word “Machus”, which means “of the wise.”
- Mont: Nuthanori word meaning “High Place”. Used human-style in the naming of Mountains.
- Noletinechor: “Lore Shields”, an elvish historical vocation
- Nuthanorl: Low Elven Language, Common Elven
- Sarner: A human abbreviation of the Hithainduil word “Saranariuthenal” which means, literally, “Swift and Wide”. The River Sarner runs through the central valley of Elvarheim.
- Tarquessir: Forest Elves
- Thuyon: Nuthanori word meaning “Tall Spires”. Mont Thuyon is the name of the taller of the two peaks that define the traditional elvish lands; Modern Elvarheim lies between the foothills of Mont Thuyon and the River Sarner.
- Verdonne: “Quickbranch”, an artificial race created by Elves to be “The Guardians Of The Forest”.
- Zamiel: Drow Language
Next time: Violence and Mayhem as the Second Great Dwarfwar climaxes in Chapters 21 to 23!
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 1
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 2
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 4
- Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 5
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 1-4
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 5-10
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 11-14
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 15-17
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 18-20
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 21-23
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 24-26
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 29-31
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 32-36
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 37-40
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 41-43
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 44-46
- On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 47-51