The Fate Of Zietal Mar

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The bold Dwarves of Zietal Mar have overcome so many challenges, it would have been silly to assume they could not sail a boat back to the homeland... or that that would be the last challenge they would face. Nearly as soon as they arrived, they were identified by local Dwarves-At-Arms - and swiftly arrested. Even Nigel the Boar. Lord Voman Stoutheart had sorrowfully publicised Zietal Mar's recent declaration of independence (though not the existence of the All-Gem, or the accusations towards himself), and Khestor's declaration that "together we rise, and establish a new world for ourselves" was, predictably, not received well.


Combined with the Outpost's lack of tribute in its final weeks, it was easy for the Office for Outpost Affairs and the First House to think that Zietal Mar had mutinied. Nothing is as despicable in Bormar as turning against 'All Bormar', and so the Dwarves of Zietal Mar - dishonorable, thieving traitors as the nation now saw them - now faced a short trial and a very, very long stay behind a sturdy set of steel bars. Of course, the dwarves of Zietal Mar refused to let that be the end of it. They brought forth their long-carried suspicions and accusations against Lord Voman - to no effect whatsoever. No one was about to take the word of a few ragged, mutinous boat-stealing colonists over the impeccable reputation of Good Lord Voman. And even as they accused him, Lord Voman publically called for clemency - it was his own negligence, he said, that had at least in part driven the Dwarves of Zietal Mar to this extreme, and that their sentence should be reduced. Naturally, this succeeded only in making him look better and the Dwarves worse. And so the story of Zietal Mar had come to a bitter conclusion.


For Lord Voman's part, he soon after received a message from his final batch of Grol mercenaries, ones he had sent to comb through abandoned Zietal Mar for any possible remnants of the All-Gem: two Dwarves had still lived in Zietal Mar, and they had said that the All-Gem had not been destroyed as the Governor's announcement had said, but had in fact been secreted away on the Cuckoo. Voman had not immediately had the Cuckoo searched when it arrived, as that might have aroused suspicion, but he moved to do so now. But the mercenaries' message had reached him just a bit too late, and the ship had been searched by the Office of Outpost Affairs. Of note, their search had yielded scraps of writing that the Dwarves of Zietal Mar had brought with them from the island - but also a most curious, gigantic, multicoloured gemstone.


Unbeknownst to all aboard the ship save Gib Andosk and Khestor Thidirlun - the Outpost's Consul and Governor respectively - the All-Gem that had been destroyed before in the depths below Fort Thidir was a fake, and the real one had been secreted away. And of the two Dwarves, only Khestor knew that it had been taken aboard the boat, stored safely inside a chest in the captain's cabin. The scraps of text of dubious provenance could have been insufficient to save the Outpost's Dwarves, but the gemstone was too unusual, and fit too well with the Zietal Marians' claims of the All-Gem to be ignored. The trial (or conviction, more accurately) of the Dwarves was put on hold while the First House ordered an investigation.


It was thought that this new development would only delay the treasonous colonists' fate... but the investigation kept extending. The great gemstone was investigated by every jeweller, miner and geologist employed by the First House, and deemed to be neither a fake or anything seen before. The ruined pieces of writing from the island were tested by the Bormar Apothecarial Society, and found to, at least, likely be as old as supposed by the text. Increasingly unnerved, the OfOA sent crews of investigators to the island Zietal Mar was on to examine it more closely. The Dwarves of Zietal Mar were thus on their way to at least partial redemption in the eyes of the nation, but still almost no one suspected Lord Voman Stoutheart of any wrongdoing. The colonists may turn out to be innocent, it was said, but Good Lord Voman will never be guilty. The investigation continued as agents of Bormar combed the length and breadth of the island. Weeks stretched into months (time the under-suspicion Dwarves and boar spent in varyingly-comfortable dungeons). Several times the whole process even came perilously close to being called off entirely due to the scattered nature of the evidence and Lord Voman's good name. Only the faint sense of unease among some in the OfOA and the First House that things are not adding up kept the hopes of the Dwarves alive. The First House also launched an inquiry into the status of Grol mercenaries in Bormar and the neighbouring nations. Preliminarily nothing seemed unusual, but upon further investigation, several of these groups' trails of payments led to dead ends and vague employers. The tracks were too convoluted, the House saw, for them to possibly not be intentional. Someone with immense funds and even greater discretion had hired hundreds of unscrupulous mercenaries the world over. And whoever it was, they had directed these forces to the island Zietal Mar was on.


This was the final straw. The pile of evidence gathered over the past year had grown too great to not be acted upon, even against the unimpeachable Lord Voman. The First House immediately dispatched a cohort to Yougal, Lord Voman's holding, to place him under house arrest. But the House's hesitation had cost them. Lord Voman was not found in his quarters in Yougal... or anyplace else. He had, it seemed, vanished. A few took this as a sign that he had been kidnapped, that whoever was behind this conspiracy against the Good Lord had struck - but the House came to the realisation: Voman had fled. This was taken as acquiescence of guilt. The increasingly unnerving investigation had become the talk of Bormar already, but the resulting maelstrom of shock and outrage was something else. Good Lord Voman, Stoutheart, who for all his decades in the public eye had been considered a living ideal, not only of what it was to be a noble in Bormar, but what it was to be Bormar in general, had orchestrated the destruction and death of hundreds of his fellow Bormar and the destruction of two Outposts - all for the sake of a gemstone. The Dwarves (and boar), still in prison, who had brought his treason to light were nearly forgotten in the ensuing uproar. Voman had had many, many friends and allies and contacts, and now any one of them could be under suspicion. Dozens of nobles, businessdwarves, and even foreign traders and dignitaries hurried to declare their innocence and publicly and loudly cut all ties with Voman. His home holding, Yougal, was practically turned upside down as the First House looked for more evidence of his crimes - and plans. Indeed, it was the people of Yougal who were most horrified and affected that their Good Lord could ever have done what he had, and nowhere else in Bormar were there more persons who clung to the notion, the hope that Good Lord Voman had been set up, and that his disappearance was not of his own doing.


But the Dwarves of Zietal Mar would not be forgotten for long. They had not only uncovered the wickedness of Lord Voman, but they had also restored to Bormar a treasure that a year ago would have been thought of as a fairy tale. They were freed, and given a formal pardon and apology by the First House. Pleasantly, this pardon also came with a hefty ton of treasure to each their names. But perhaps most strikingly, they (including Nigel the Boar) were collectively given the formal title of "The Heroes of Zietal Mar". The Cuckoo was kept by the First House, as an article of evidence, but other than that, they had emerged from their imprisonment and trials rich, victorious, and considered heroes the country over. Not bad for a bunch of mutinous, boat-stealing colonists. Those Dwarves who had lived in Zietal Mar, but had left before the discovery of the All-Gem, but had still contributed to the investigation - such as the journalist, Ortho Berukahs, who had preserved some of the scattered journal entries from the island - were also given the title "Hero of Zietal Mar", though only those who had lived in the Outpost at the time of the All-Gem's discovery were also given the treasure to go along with it.


But what of the island, and Zietal Mar itself? The last of Voman's Grol mercenaries had been ordered by him to quickly depart when the Office for Outpost Affairs sent its agents to investigate it, but before they left they had sacked the Outpost in search of any trace of the All-Gem, and just for plunder. The Outpost was left standing, but extensively damaged. It did not yield many clues to the investigators, though on the island they discovered, to their surprise, two dwarves: ones Alekan Indrothath and Kogan Gemesh, who had disguised themselves as Grols to escape the final attack. They shared their story, and were afterwards sent back to Bormar to join their fellows (at the time still in prison). Their testimonies added to the hoard of evidence that ultimately undid Voman, and they were honoured and rewarded the same as those who had sailed away aboard the Cuckoo. And so the story of Zietal Mar has come to a happy conclusion.


The island the Outpost is on remains off-limits to general travel or visit. The possibility that further evidence against Voman turns up is too great, the First House reasons. More, the island is of historical note - it was where the All-Gem was taken to and hidden, all those centuries ago, by the obscure set of gods-minded Dwarves. Several scholars of ancient Bormar history are currently labouring over the All-Gem chamber and searching (likely in vain) across the island for other things the ancients may have left behind. Zietal Mar itself remains, despite the wishes of some, not rebuilt. Both for its connection to the Voman debacle - it too could yield more revelations, and thus is not to be disturbed - and because the island itself is not, beyond its historical value, that remarkable now that the All-Gem has been procured. What future awaits Zietal Mar is uncertain, but whatever it is, it has secured a place in the history books.


Also, following the whole debacle, some have raised questions and proposals that the Office for Outpost Affairs perhaps could take a more active role in the welfare and condition of the nation's outposts, rather than just enforcing laws and exacting tribute. In addition, indeed, perhaps, some have suggested, there could - perhaps even should - be some kind of broader oversight on the actions of nobles. Thank the Ruling God, all this has been summarily dismissed as overblown hysterics and, to quote Lady Beyrt of the First House, "un-Bormarly hand-wringing." As for the All-Gem itself, for which all this destruction and trouble occurred, it remains in possession of the First House (and under the strictest guard), though at present the specifics of what is to be done with it are uncertain.


That it is a fantastic item and a symbol of Bormar is beyond question, but it has been 'just a story' for nearly as long as Bormar the nation has existed, and deciding what specifically it should represent and how it is to be used is a source of debate and discussion. Its likeness has already been used, however: each Hero of Zietal Mar (including Nigel) has been crafted a colourful brooch by Bormar's most renowned jewellers in the image of the All-Gem. And in a broader way, the discovery of the All-Gem has aroused a new sense of hope and pride in Bormar. The saying went - "Bormar can have every kind of treasure in the world, but not the All-Gem." The updated version now being triumphantly toasted the Mar Mountains over, in taverns and over dinner tables, in remote watchposts and the mansions of nobles is "Bormar can have every kind of treasure in the world - eventually!". How disappointed the Dwarves who, so long ago, hid the All-Gem to prevent their people from growing too confident must be.


The cheer is called for, because former-Lord Voman has not been found, and the repercussions and implications of his treasons continue to ripple. Though investigations and inquiries continue and likely will for years to come, it would appear that Voman acted alone - or at least, that any allies he had were not in Bormar. His work gathering and organising the mercenaries that he did, all the while covering his tracks so masterfully, it has been realised, could not have been done over the span of weeks or even months. It seems impossible that Voman was wicked from the first - he earned the love he received, and whoever he became, whenever his heart turned, his upstanding character could only have been, at least to begin with, sincere. But whatever his ultimate designs, he had to have begun them at least a few years ago - all the while presenting the same, smiling, immaculate exterior to the world at large. Indeed, what troubles those continuing to investigate the matter is not merely that Voman remains at large, but that, despite his guilt being evident, his ultimate goal or goals remain completely unknown. He was always known to be shrewd, even in the days of his goodness, and it seems impossible that he would have done so much and risked so much just to obtain a jewel, however large or legendary. But if not treasure, what did he want the All-Gem for? Worse, has he even stopped pursuing his goals? Whatever the truth, the efforts of the Heroes of Zietal Mar have meant that his power in Bormar is broken and gone. Without his lordship, wealth, connections and reputation, he is only a shadow of his former danger. Even so, it is plain now that Voman is ambitious, voraciously so, and if hundreds of lives were not a deterrent for him, it is unlikely that this setback will be one either.


Still, Voman Althal was defeated by heroic Dwarves (and a boar) once before, and Bormar rests comfortable in the knowledge that, should he ever threaten All Bormar again, he will meet with the same fate.