Transcript – Cavernvault
[Theme music plays, then fades into a soothing ambiance.]
At the ending of the First Age, when the Aenaeti left Toor forever, they left the people they had made without a higher authority to look to. The elves and the orcs turned to the divine, trusting to insubstantial gods and goddesses to watch over them and give promises of better futures.
The dwarves, on the other hand, were a little more secular in their response. They had always been a grounded people, much more interested in the secrets of the earth and the possibilities that could be explored, seen and touched. They had and have little time for the spiritual or the esoteric.
Their cities had always been architectural marvels, with tall buildings of quarried stone and glass and machines powered by wheels and steam. But, at the dawn of the First Age, with the light of the Fae shining out from the four lighthouses, the leaders of the dwarven peoples came together in pursuit of the next great work.
They would build new cities that would become centres of their culture and industry in the new world without the First Folk.
So, they began laying the foundations of these great cities.
In the Grey Hills of the north, Mahlascund, the City of the Steel Masters, grew to tower over the tundra, smoke rising from its many iron foundries and factories. It is perhaps not surprising that it was here that the great Galnor Greyhammer, the Paladin of the North, would one day be born. It is even rumoured that his famous war hammer, Ûbreitha, was forged from steel made in the smelters of Mahlascund. But you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.
In the Valley of the Rainbows, in the mountains east of Sarnor, the dwarves raised a great city in the shadows of the surrounding mountains. This place was called Angzhad, the Shaded City. And it became a place of beautiful architecture, wide marble avenues and quiet stone gardens. People tend to be surprised when visiting this place. The cultural image of the dwarves is that of industry, smoking forges and the constant ringing of hammers on anvils and it is often forgotten that dwarves also have a love of building and a deep appreciation of beauty. And Angzhad was an architectural jewel that, sadly, the world is unlikely to see the like of again.
Yaizhad, the Fiery City, was built in the mountain range of Gailaeglir, south of the Sea of Nara. Because of the location of this city, the dwarves who lived here developed close ties with the elves of Ardh Narasant, who lived on the shores of the Nara Sea. Ships would depart Narolin, laden with gailicalcum and everstone and return with elegant statues, fine jewels inlaid with precious stones and beautiful ornaments made of rare metals. And when the Aer’Maethor, the order of mage knights, was founded, it was the dwarves of Yaizhad who supplied the weapons and armour that they wore into battle.
And finally, the greatest of all the old dwarven cities, built beneath the Empty Mountain. Khaltu Vult it was originally named, the People’s Fortress. It was built by the dwarves who had faced the warped fury of the orcs when they had first been made, and they knew the horrors of battle and wished to safeguard against any similar event that might happen in the future. So they delved deep into the heart of the mountain and created an impregnable city of high, thick stone walls and new workshops for the making of war machines.
The martial nature of the Khaltu Vult dwarves did raise a few eyebrows from their neighbours, especially from the newly arrived humans, who always believe every other people must think the same way they do. The humans saw this stronghold and position of strength and were sure this would be used as a base of operation while legions of Khaltu warriors marched to carve out a new empire for themselves. For the humans of the west, who had just claimed those lands for themselves, this idea terrified them. A few local lordlings even attempted pre-emptive strikes on the mountain fortress. None of them were successful.
They needn’t have worried, of course. Dwarves, in general, do not seek dominion over others or the monopolisation of resources. The Khaltu dwarves were content to protect what was theirs already. In time, the distrust of their neighbours faded and trade began to flourish between the Khaltu dwarves and their neighbours. The humans of Aladia, who had once looked on their neighbours in the Empty Mountain with suspicion, even came to be grateful for the stronghold. Especially when Seregoth rose to power and the Reign of Blood began.
At the closing of the Third Age, Khaltu Vult had come to be regarded as the greatest city in the west and, with the dwarves now far more open to the idea of living among the other peoples, the city had attracted others who wished to bring what they knew to this collective. Gnomes, orcs, humans, goblins, all now dwelt within the city, which had shaken off its martial heritage in the new age of peace and now perused the betterment of ingenuity and invention.
Khaltu Vult, or as it was now known, Cavernvault was a sprawling maze of workshops and forges powered by whirling gears and hissing pistons, where individuals of any background could meet and exchange ideas, learn and discover new possibilities.
The city had, in older days, been ruled by a king. But that tradition had long since fallen by the wayside to be replaced by a council of great thinkers and inventors who called themselves the Technigarchy. This council was headed by the greatest mind the world had ever known, one who’s research into bio-engineering allowed them to conquer death itself. Professor Baleyin is a little eccentric, as such people tend to be, which I suppose explains their choice in living on in a rather…interesting mechanical body, but Cavernvault is undeniably a better place for their leadership. And they have at least been wise enough not to share the secret with anyone else.
Though this would prove to have less than ideal consequences when a young inventor by the name of Fjalik, enraged by the Professor’s unwillingness to share the secret of immortality, began looking for other sources of power, setting in motion a chain of events that would lead to ultimate destruction.
Cavernvault still stands, mercifully, though it is a shadow of its former glory. When the Horde arrived outside the gates of the Empty Mountain, though the people of Cavernvault were not the dedicated military force that had long ago inhabited the city, they still had access to the tools of the trade. The city walls had been kept in good repair and it did not take long for the mechanics and engineers to get the old war machines working again.
Soon fire hurlers rained death down on the raging berserkers of the Horde while archers loosed arrow after arrow from the high walls which detonated on impact.
Seeing the city could not be taken, the Harbinger directed his minions elsewhere. And the Horde ravaged the countryside that surrounded the mountain.
In doing so, the Harbinger destroyed Cavernvault without having to set foot in the place. Because, as brilliant as the minds of those who dwelt in the city were, there is no way to invent a way out of food shortage. There was simply not enough to go around. And the people were faced with the choice of leaving or starving.
And so Cavernvault was all but abandoned, only a few staying behind to try and keep the place going. They did what they could, did more than most, but it was not enough and the flame of genius that had once been Cavernvault was all but extinguished. And the world is much dimmer for its loss.
Cavernvault was indeed a wonder of the more ancient times and as such became a source of envy by many who wished to use its secrets for their own ends. There was one such man who rose to power in the west and led a reign of terror, death and destruction that would go unmatched until the coming of the Harbinger.
But of these things, we shall talk another time.
[Theme music fades up, credits.]