|A Stranger Arrives
An old tale from a remote corner of Bormar chronicling the arrival and fortunes of an ancient Dwarf. The full story is divided into two parts, the first depicting the strange, ancient Dwarf of old, and the second depicting that Dwarf's noble descendant, Lord Tolbar Maldus.
Dishevelled, bruised, unkempt, he hobbles to what he believes is some sort of inn, or tavern. Even a small town of this size has its travellers, particularly by the coast, but the Dwarf garners attention from his strange garb, dark grey skin, severe limp and the secrecy in which he carries himself.
He speaks none of the language, nevertheless managing to broker with the innkeeper for some food and a room for the night. The Dwarf reaches into his pockets, remarkably intact despite the rest of his ensemble and carefully places a small piece of metal onto the counter-top, eyeing the innkeeper inquisitively. The innkeeper looks down at the coin with a glint in his eye and quickly snatches it up, glancing around to ward away any prying eyes.
Personally, the innkeeper shows the newcomer to his room, presents him with a key, shakes his hand and makes his way back downstairs. The Dwarf makes his way into his room, locks the door behind him, lies down on a very large bed, the largest he's seen, and promptly falls asleep for many, many hours.
He awakes at dusk, exits the room and finds another Dwarf standing there. Fully armoured in chain, with a small axe on his hip and a large sword on his back, the armoured Dwarf simply nods to his new charge and follows him down the stairs.
The innkeeper, delighted to see his new guest, quickly ushers him to a table in the back room, lit with candles and well-presented. A fresh plate of food is brought out, along with a few sets of clean home-spun garbs. The Dwarf eats his meal slowly, inspecting every bite, but finding it to be very good fare.
He makes his way out of the inn, armoured Dwarf in tow, gathering looks from the townsfolk. He peers into shop windows, stares at the buildings and the sky and makes his way through the market streets and into the residential areas.
A few days pass, the Dwarf now quite accustomed to his new bodyguards, of which there are two - taking a day shift and a night shift between them. He doesn't know why they're guarding him, but the innkeeper is hardly going to let his best customer get harmed.
One day, the Dwarf discovers a local library. A relatively small collection of books, communally put together by the more well-off merchants and townspeople, kept by a small staff of Dwarves.
The Dwarf took to this library like a Dartswimmer to water; every day a new book, which he would bring home and voraciously read. Books on geography, childrens books for learning and maps were his keenest focus.
Eventually, over many months, of which his money was still good, the Dwarf came to know the language of the town. He became a regular sight amongst the cobbled streets, always a courteous greeting to those he passed and a common sight for the merchants and traders with whom he struck up jovial conversations.
Many tales emerged over the years of how the Dwarf managed to accumulate his money, despite not seemingly having a job for much of it. Some say that he paid visits to the local metallurgists, selling them secret alloys of strange use. Others swear he was a regular at the Apothecaries, to which he sold them botanical secrets using plants long thought to be useless.
One fact is known, once the Dwarf had mastered the language, he took to the quill himself, penning many stories and tales. These books became immensely popular throughout the town and indeed nearby towns; telling tales of strange underground lands, intrepid explorers facing beasts beyond description and writing of sights that made young Dwarves yearn for adventure.
Many years pass in this sleepy little town, with the Dwarf showing no signs of wanting to leave. He had grasped the language, made good friends with the locals, had made a small name for himself amongst the merchants and was quite a successful book seller.
The Dwarf buys his own house, he finds a wife and raises a family. Over time the family prospers as well, with their wealth growing larger and their reputation growing too.
However, time passes on. The innkeeper, now a true friend, passes away. The two bodyguards, stalwart companions and guardians to their children, pass away. The Apothecary, the smith, the book-keeper, all pass. The Dwarf remains happy throughout his life, with nary a bad day to be had. His children grow up, strong and smart, they have families of their own and the Dwarf is truly content.
Eventually, the Dwarf dies too. From strange shores to a tiny town, no one quite knows the true story of what happened to this Dwarf, but as the town mourns his passing, the stories and rumours begin to crop up again.
The Dwarf's belongings, rare and valuable, pass through the family from generation to generation; heirlooms and artifacts. The story of their forefather is always told at Yuletide, when the family has a mass gathering at the ancestral home, though quite expanded by generations of work. Pieces of jewellery, first edition books, fine clothes and other trinkets are brought out and shown in the fire light to children with wonder in their eyes. At the end of it all, a scroll, kept tightly sealed and held by the eldest firstborn of each generation. The last will and testament of the Dwarf.
His descendants are careful with their money, never too thrifty, yet never risking too much. They solidify the family claim over the town and a handful of other neighbouring towns. They eventually become Lords and Ladies of the area, guiding it with a steady hand.
Tolbar tucks into his evening meal. The days of roast venison and stewed Tuskhide Boar are long gone. In front of him sits a plate of wilted carrots, a lump of unidentifiable vegetables and a bone with a scant amount of meat on it. Probably Murderowl. Tolbar digs into his meal with relish. The cook has outdone himself this night.
A single candle burns in the middle of the long dining table. Tolbar, at its end, is almost in complete darkness. His butler, Codol, stands in the corner in complete silence whilst Tolbar quietly chews the leg of meat.
Blashryk was a thriving town once. Once. Before the Vingaborda mess. Before the Grol started raiding smaller, more feeble settlements. Now, the houses are empty, the inns are bare, the fields are overgrown and full of weeds. Tolbar and his retinue are the last remnants. He refuses to leave and they, perhaps out of pity, perhaps out of loyalty, have chosen to stay.
A tiny pinprick of light appears at the end of a pitch-black hallway. The sound of leather slapping against stone can be heard faintly. Keys jingle and a Dwarf's breath gets heavier as they sprint their way to the dining room.
Tolbar peers over. A crusty old Dwarf rushes into the room, all pretence of subservience thrown aside as they slap some parchment down on the table. One, a thin leather-bound missive, the other, a dusty scrap of a map.
"I have it!" the librarian shouts, almost screams actually. "Our...", he quietens down, remembering where he is, "..that is, rather, YOUR salvation, m'Lord." The cook has turned up now, all of the household retinue are contained within this one room.
Tolbar says nothing, putting his knife and fork down. He grabs the parchment and peers through a pair of tiny, cloudy spectacles.
The librarian perks up and begins to speak, either for the benefit of the rest of the staff, or just for himself.
"When your cousin left you your inheritance..." the librarian gestures towards the leather-bound missive...
Tolbar had seen the inheritance before, many times. He brushed it aside for now, it held no secrets from him.
"We always thought that 'Gellion's Cross' was a piece of long-lost jewellery, some trinket we never found." The librarian went on, grabbing the map as he did.
"It isn't!" he shouted as he jabbed his finger down onto a seemingly-random point on the map. "It's a place!"
Tolbar peered over his spectacles at the map. It did look like a cross...
A + shaped section, tiny in comparison with the nearby mountain ranges, backing onto the Ariq Desert. It was on the very outskirts of Bormar, perhaps too far away to be true Dwarven territory. There might be contestations within some factions, or indeed with the Humans of the Ariq, but the legality of the will was water-proof, Tolbar knew that from experience.
If this was true, it would be his last chance at regaining any semblance of a Lordly life. It would be nice to have subjects again. Well, it would be nice to have anything again.
But his funds were dwindling. If he did this, he risked everything.
"To those noble Dwarves who have travelled untold distances to found a new outpost, I thank you."
"My own state of affairs is now public knowledge, my home lies in ruins and many of my subjects lie dead due to the Grol warlords who have taken advantage of the recent turmoils to fill their own pockets."
"But with my final citnings, all my favours called in, I have financed this founding. I have secured passage, ships and resources for you all. I have put my judgement in each of you to provide as best you can for the group as a whole."
"A mysterious remnant from my past, a will left by my ancestor, has yielded a parcel of land for me, but it is you who will land there, secure it and make it a new home. My own name will be fleeting, as the Lord who lost it all, but your names will be immortalised as the first Dwarves to settle there in recorded history."
"I do not know what Gellion's Cross will hold, so I wish you the best of luck. May the Gods, all of them, be looking over you."
~ Lord Tolbar Maldus