Transcript – The Lamplight War

[Theme music plays, then fades into a soothing ambiance.]

It began at the dawn of the Fifth Age. The world was still recovering from the Undead March, a time when the necromancer warlord, Scarend Corchir, raised an army of the dead to carve out a kingdom for himself.

The ultimate tool of Cavernvault, the Creation Seed, had been wielded upon the east, turning the desert of Lithmelin into the volcanic waste that would come to be known as the Ashen Plains, a scorched land encircled by newly made volcanos.

Rebuilding had begun and hope was kindled anew in the hearts of the people of Irdaliin; hope for a new golden age of prosperity and peace.

In the unsleeping clockwork city, the engineers and inventors of Cavernvault raised drinks and cheered in celebration of their brilliance. The Eternal Architect, Professor Baleyin praised them for their efforts, and proclaimed that the ingenuity that had gone into the forging of the Creation Seed demonstrated a new height of craftsmanship in Toor.

Among those listening was a young apprentice by the name of Turriga Loreniak who, while celebrating with her fellows, allowed her mind to drift, thinking to what the next level of invention could be. And how such a thing could be made.

The Creation Seed had been a work of masterful craftsmanship, but it had taken every ounce of energy Cavernvault could generate just to bring it into being. And even then, it had only been possible with the backing of the banks of Glen Gladach. If they were to ever make anything more miraculous, then they would need a new source of power, something far greater than anything they had used before.

And in that moment, the thought of the Lighthouses came into Turriga’s head and the kernel of an idea was planted.

No dwarf to this point had ever given the Lighthouses much thought. They were things of magic, the concern of the elves and the half-elves, the purview of the Fae. They were nothing to do with dwarves like Turriga, far more concerned with the possibilities of the material world than any ephemeral nonsense.

But what if that ephemeral nonsense was exactly the answer Turriga was looking for?

The Lighthouses provided the energy used to work magic, as they had for thousands of years. They contained seemingly infinite stores of raw power. Imagine what a mind as great as those that dwelt within Cavernvault could do with such power. Food, heating, water, medicine, all things that people ran short of due to limited supply. With limitless potential energy, such shortages would be a thing of the past. Never again would people have to go hungry or without shelter, there would be plenty for everyone.

Excited, Turriga took her hypothesis directly to Professor Baleyin.

None know exactly what happened in that meeting, aside from Professor Baleyin himself. I’d like to think that the eternal Architect was kind to the young apprentice who, after all, wanted nothing more than to help people. But he must have told her the cold facts. That the Fae Realm is not a battery to be used by mortals. Mages use the energies that pass through the Lighthouse portals in the same way a weaver’s assistant might use scraps and off-cuts to practice their craft, technically still weaving but not making use of the actual tapestry.

To try and tap into the Fae for a constant supply of power would trigger tearing in the Veil unlike anything seen since the Dawn Years. And besides, I believe he went on, the Fae is not like the world we know. It is not consistent, not bound by any rules of logic or physics. It is wild and unpredictable and so not ideal to source constant power.

I do believe the Professor applauded her creativity and encouraged her desire to work for the common good, for Turriga Loreniak did go on to make great developments in the fields of agricultural engineering as well as bionics.

So, the years passed, Turriga had a son who, in time, had one of his own.

It was the year 1628 of the Fifth Age when Fjalik Uzen Loreniak, the great grandchild of Turriga, was born. And I do not exaggerate when I say it would have been far better for everyone if the infant Fjalik had been dropped down a chasm.

Like his great-grandmother, Fjalik took an apprenticeship in Cavernvault. He had inherited Turriga’s great mind but, sadly, not her restraint nor her morals.

Fjalik was far more interested in earning himself a place in the history books. He wanted to be remembered as a great inventor, worthy to take a place among the revered ancestors. By fortune, or rather great misfortune, he came across Turriga’s notes and saw in them the pathway to his own immortality. Unable to believe his great-grandmother had done nothing with her hypothesis, he took them to his master and sought permission to continue.

It is not known whether that permission was given or not. Maybe Fjalik’s teacher was possessed of the same wisdom as Professor Baleyin or maybe they weren’t and was so blinded by the potential of Fjalik’s proposal that they did not see the danger until it was too late. Either way, we shall never know. They did not survive long enough for history to find out.

What is known is that Fjalik did pursue this research, but with the cold hardness of one determined to achieve their goal, no matter the cost. He knew there would be opposition to what he was attempting, he was no fool. And he knew that he would need a force of his own to make his dream a reality.

And so, Fjalik Uzen Toreniak, a great inventor with the kind of mind that comes along perhaps once in a generation, pored over accounts and instructions written decades, centuries and millennia before his birth and, over time, became an expert on the construction of automatons.

Up to this point, automatons were used mainly to fill the roles of servants. They were simple machines, constructed to fulfil a specific function that contributed to everyday life.

But Fjalik didn’t need house servants or cleaning machines. Instead, he crafted machines of war. The Legion of Steel. Each one the equal in size to an orc, with carapaces of tempered steel, moving on legs driven by pistons, all heavily armed with razor sharp blades, crushing mauls, repeater crossbows and metal fists.

The Year was 1734 of the Fifth Age and the nations of Irdaliin were at peace.

Then a sublevel of Cavernvault opened and, with no sound but the hissing of steam and the heavy sound of metal feet on stone floors, Fjalik’s Legion marched out. The people of Cavernvault were not the warlike people they had once been. They had local law enforcement but certainly nothing that could stop the Legion’s march, or even slow them down. Their skills were now in invention and building, not in warcraft. So they could only watch in stunned horror as Fjalik’s creation marched through the Clockwork City, all while their creator broadcasted on the city-wide vox network, announcing what he had done. He promised that everything he had done and would do was for the good and betterment of all peoples. And its possible Fjalik believed what he said.

From his sanctum atop the Aurvandic Tower, Professor Baleyin watched the Legion depart, sorrow for what was to come weighing heavily upon him. Then he turned, and went back to his own work.

It was a war like no other. There was no declaration, no warning. The Steel Legion simply marched south to the Silver Bay, to the Lighthouse Calad’elu. And there they deployed strange machines designed by Fjalik, based on the corrupting power Seregoth had wielded in ages past.

But these engines went further than merely closing off the power coming through the Lighthouse portal. The power was instead harnessed, channelled into more new machines. Magic and technology fused for the first time in Toor’s history. Batteries designed to hold the energies of the Fae drank greedily from the Light of Calad’elu. And this was felt by every elf and every Fae. And with that, the Lamplight War was begun.

None knew at first the extent of Fjalik’s endeavour. The Lord of Pale Harbour dispatched a battalion and a small fleet to the Lighthouse, to test the severity of the threat. None returned.

The other nations waited, their breath bated, to see what would happen next. And then Fjalik revealed the full extent of his design. Leaving a detachment to guard Calad’elu, the Legion marched again, though this time divided. Half went north into Aladia and half went east. And it was clear to all now what their goal was. Calarborn on the western shore, and Rhunenaur in the eastern mountains. The armies of Nan Sirion attempted to stand against them while the garrison at Caras Aeglir tried desperately to hold them out of Aladia. All these forces were swept aside by the relentless march of the Steel Legion.

Then, to make matters worse, a deputation of the Sealed Court emerged into the Mortal Realm, bringing with them dire news. It was just as Professor Baleyin had predicted. The forceful draining of the Fae’s energies was having a terrible effect on the Fae Realm. Whole island nations were being robbed of life, dimming and extinguishing. If it was not stopped, the veil would be torn, to an extent far greater than even the Dawn Years.

With the stakes now clear, a thing was done that had not been seen in many years. With the Fae acting as messengers, able to slip in and out of reality, the leaders of Irdaliin and even of some lands beyond, formed an alliance: the Union of the Light. For the first time in history, all the armies of Irdaliin stood together; elves, humans, orcs, dwarves, gnomes, goblins and halflings of every country along with warriors of the Fae Realm who stood shoulder to shoulder with the mortal soldiers.

But even this was not enough. United, they were enough to slow the advance, but they could not stop the Steel Legion reaching Rhunenaur. Two Lighthouses were now claimed and everyone knew it would not be long before Fjalik had three in his control. And it had taken everything they had just to slow them.

Something happened then that would set the future of Toor in stone. In the year 1746, a Master Enchanter of the Marble University, the greatest mage of known history, came upon a means of amplifying his power. It was dangerous and would have been absolutely forbidden in earlier years.

But these were desperate times, and that is usually enough to silence dissent.

This mage gathered a group of volunteers, all elves like himself, and with them went to Gailesgar, the only Lighthouse not yet under the control of Fjalik. And there the mage worked a ritual. This ritual drained the power of the volunteers’ connection to the Fae, severing them from it forever. The process was pain beyond pain, the screams could be heard a mile away. Only one of the volunteers survived.

But the ritual was successful and with his new power, under the Light of Gailesgar, the Master Enchanter weaved a spell. It was an enchantment of such scope and complexity that was unlike any spell ever before attempted. And there had never been another who might have been capable of it. Those who believe in fate might say that he was born to perform this work, to save the world from the damage Fjalik’s Steel Legion was doing. I’d be interested to know what those people think about what happened next.

The Master Enchanter let loose his spell which crashed like a great wave across Irdaliin. The Steel Legionnaires, as one, fell. Their cores fried, their weapons and armour now useless. The machines that had trapped the magic of the Lighthouses were unmade and the magic again poured into the world.

Fjalik had made a fortress for himself, a place called Dol Ilnas, and it was to this fortress now that the armies of the Union went. The fortress was now all but defenceless and so was destroyed and Fjalik put to the sword for his crimes. The War of the Lamps was over and across Irdaliin there was great celebration. At Gailesgar, the Master Enchanter was named Arch-Mage and a triumph was held in his honour. And he stood atop the tower, flanked by the other lords and kings of the Union, and the one surviving volunteer.

And in that moment, he saw all he had done, the greatness he had achieved. And in the darkness of his heart, he thought to himself what more he might achieve were he to wield such power again. And his thoughts were heard.

But of these things, we shall talk another time.

[Theme music fades up, credits.]