[Note: This Article first appeared in Vol. 5, Issue 1 of FIRE IN THE SKY: The Spurian Chronicle. Titled: Our Origins -- A Hearthstone Tale by Relion Lem.]
from THE BOOK OF DRAGON: VOL III CHAP 4
The city of Spur was in its infancy;
Like a babe left alone, cries unheeded
Was it rent time and again by southern hunters.
And they came over tight stone walls,
Tide in midsummer, crashing, reaving.
The Spur was a rock against the tide,
Until the mind of Gaia joined with the
Arm of the hunters to form a hammer
To smite the Spur.
But hammers forge as well as destroy.
It was then that the Great Stone, in need,
Called the Heroes of the Spur into being,
Warriors of many races with powers beyond
Tulla the Rijom rode about the periphery of the walls, gaze sliding over the well-built granite, slowing only to gaze minutely at the areas of weakness, be they unsound foundations, cracked stone, or old mortar. The Spur was well-placed and well-built, but before his eyes, rendered expert by years of smashing at these very structures, it was a door to by opened. Finally, after many years, the Rijom had the might to bring low the hated city and reign supreme in this corner of the world.
Tulla's general, Galimar, also gazed at the walls, not with the familiarity of a foe but rather with the attention of a lover. He was a master of the siege; breaking through walls was his profession, and he did it rather well. He hailed from the city of Gaia, to the south. The Spur's appearance right on the waterfront had made it a bitter trade rival with Gaia, a rivalry long, feud-ridden, and quite bloody. So bloody that it had led the Elders of Gaia to form a truce with the nomadic Rijom.The Rijom provided the warriors, and the Gaians provided the siege engines: the Spur would be looted and burned with ease.
"Attend me, Gaian," Tulla said, stopping his pony before a particular section of the wall. Galimar complied, muttering beneath his breath. This Rijom fellow, be he Clan Lord of Whatever-Whatever or not, had no right to take such airs over a city-born. Tulla continued, "This is the section I spoke to you about. Notice the little steam running from beneath the rocks."
"Mmmm...mmmm," hummed Galimar, nodding his head, indignance forgotten. "Yes... Yes. The steam will have weakened the foundation so that a concentration of boulders will bring it right down."
Tulla clapped his hands together and positively beamed. There was such malice in his eyes that Galimar was taken aback somewhat. Hoping to curb the Rijom's blood-lust, Galimar modified his earlier statement: "The Spurians aren't fools. They'll have noticed this steam some time ago. I'll bet real gold that there are more than a few buttresses holding that section up." He spat in the sand to punctuate his sentence.
Tulla, however, was not to be daunted by small complications. "Nevertheless, this is the weakest section, so you will concentrate your siege engines on that spot."
"It won't work. We'll be at this till winter," Galimar said, still disliking Tulla's easy manner of command.
Tulla laughed at that. "Ah yes, I forget that you city folk cannot stand winter. Your armies always drop like flies when it starts getting a little chilly. One would think you were desert lizards or some such." This statement, alluding as it did to hundreds of battles over the years between Rijom and Gaia, set Galimar's teeth on edge. The Rijom had never taken Gaia itself, but Gaia's regulars had been defeated time and again on the field. The Rijom, a nomad nation, was quite able to campaign all winter long, while the Gaians, used to warm barracks, did in fact 'drop like flies'.
Galimar, as annoyed as he was, decided he'd rather not confront Tulla on the issue. "Have it your way," he muttered, and galloped off to attend to his engines. He looked over his shoulder to see Tulla still gazing at the walls of the Spur. Even from here could he see the hunger on the nomad's face.
The ballista and catapults, under Galimar's supervision, began flinging rocks at the walls of the Spur. They were careful not to concentrate overmuch on the weakened area, knowing well that the defenders, if alerted to their enemies' plan, could shore up the wall as fast as the boulders weakened it.
The siege lasted for several more months. One might think that the Spurians could ignore a siege, subsisting as they did on the water rather than land. Such was not the case. The Southern Trade Way was the staple of the Spurian economy then, with ship-borne goods a small, if growing, percentage. The city did its best to bring in food and water by boat, but in the end many went hungry.
As winter approached things got a bit more frigid for the besieging army. The Rijom bore it well, bundling up in their firs, but Galimar's men, unused to being outdoors in the snow, became miserable and restless. Galimar brought the issue up with Tulla, who said in so many words that if the Gaians tried to leave the Rijom would slaughter them.
It was nearly midnight when the weakened section of the wall toppled. Tulla, exultant, immediately led his men in an attempt to take the breach. The plan had been laid long ago: a thousand Rijom, on foot, would charge for the gap while covered by a mass of mounted archers. The Gaian regulars would then be let in through the front gate.
Galimar formed his two thousand men in the traditional square, front shields interlocking, stabbing swords ready, and marched them to the front gate. The Rijom detailed to open the gate had, it seemed, been waylaid, for the Gaians were greeted with a hail of arrows. "Shields up!" he shouted, and the square of men used their cylindrical shields to create a roof above their heads. Even then the Spur was famed for its horrible bowyers: the shafts clattered off the Gaian shields without hurting a single man.
The hail of arrows soon stopped, and cries could be heard behind the thick steel gates. The gates soon opened, and the Gaians were greeted by a group of Rijom led by none other than Tulla. "Come, Galimar, take your fifty best men and follow me," the clan leader said, his eyes burning feverishly. Galimar did so.
Tulla led Galimar and his men into a nightmare. The Spurian soldiers and the Rijom fought in the streets, a whirlwind of manic combat. There was no finesse involved in the midnight street fighting: the dagger in the back reigned over crossed swords and dueling postures. Many Rijom were laden with loot, human and otherwise. There was no order to the pillage, Galimar noticed. Strange indeed, for the Rijom's sole interest in taking the city was for loot. Why wasn't Tulla organizing parties to find valuables and other prizes before enterprising Spurian survivors made off with them?
Tulla's path skirted the knots of fighting, leading them north up a street of rich houses and expansive lawns. Tulla ignored the splendor, his eyes fixed forward with an intensity of purpose that was quite alien even to the straightforward Gaian siegemaster. Soon they reached a gate defended by a small knot of guardsmen. Tulla nodded to Galimar, who with a shout sent his fifty men to take the gate. When the guardsmen were on the ground, Galimar had his men force open the gate.
Galimar noticed that at this point they had penetrated so far into the city that the sounds of fighting were quite distant. He silently prayed to Odarous that no large band of guards would find them, for the end would be swift. Tulla led them through an arch into a sort of town square. The square was, strangely enough, filled with animal droppings. Tulla strode through the mess, his eyes still fixed forward, and led them to the northeast. They came upon a building, an inn perhaps, where Tulla lifted up a rug to reveal a trap door. The men opened it, and down they went.
The cavern was the largest that Galimar had ever heard of. Its vaulted ceiling made the great temples of Gaia pale in comparison, and Galimar, in a moment of fancy, surmised that a bird could fly about and not be hampered by the rocky confines. Tulla did not stop to gaze about in awe, however, so Galimar and his men were forced out of their reverie: "Hurry up!"
The cavern, it turned out, housed a lake, which in turn carried in its center a small island. Galimar could see, to the north, a bridge connecting the island with the shore. Numbed by the sheer size of it all--a lake in the middle of a cavern!--, Galimar followed Tulla as the Rijom led them around the eastern edge of the water. It was then that Galimar realized that the island was the source of the eerie light that suffused this underground paradise.
A gem, a beautiful, stupendously beautiful rock sat in the center of the island, glowing with a radiance easily rivaling that of the sun. The power of the gem, Galimar surmised, was greater than anything ever conceived of by human imagination. Not to mention its monetary value, a corner of his mind added. No wonder Tulla wanted the gem so badly. Suddenly Galimar's thoughts stopped short. If Tulla gained the power of that gem, he could easily bring low the city of Gaia. Visions of the Arch of Ages burnt to a crisp came into his head, and he came to a quick conclusion. Galimar, taking care not to be heard by Tulla (who seemed beyond hearing anyway), took two of his men aside and whispered to them.
When the party reached the bridge leading to the island, Galimar's men seized Tulla from behind and held him. "Traitor!" Tulla cried, eyes blazing and tears streaming down his cheeks. Galimar felt a little guilty, but he felt that his cause was just. Gaia had to be saved. Leaving Tulla and his two captors on the far side of the bridge, Galimar's party crossed and walked over to the stone.
Galimar's hands, shaking and sweaty, were just about to touch the beautiful gem when a voice stopped him cold. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, naughty naughty!" The Gaian turned about to see a four foot tall man with an enormous axe.
"Kill him!" Galimar cried to his men, and they set upon him with all their skill. The dwarf, however, easily fended them off, taunting them all the while with gibberish such as "Hah, I'm in prot!" and other nonsense. The dwarf eventually tired of his sport and began slaying the Gaians one by one, great sweeps of his wicked axe severing torsos, heads, arms, and legs.
Soon only Galimar and the dwarf were standing. The dwarf, his bloodlust seemingly abated for now, was looking about in confusion. "I know not why I am here, but I have a powerful urge to protect yonder stone. Hmm." He moved to dispatch his last foe when he was startled by shouts from across the bridge. Galimar saw Tulla standing over the bodies of his two men, chuckling in glee.
"You see, Galimar," Tulla cried, "why I took your men instead of my Rijom. I knew the Stone would protect itself, and now I know how it does so. Know this, dwarf, that I know the nature of you and your kind! There will come a time when Rijom shall own the Spur and I shall hold the Stone." The Rijom clean leader began running away in the direction of the stairs to the
"I don't even know why I'm here," the dwarf muttered. "Nice speech, though!" He then dispatched Galimar.
The adventurers who inexplicably appeared about the Spur proved too powerful for even the Rijom. Tulla quickly withdrew his forces into the plains where even the newcomers with their impenetrable "Prot" and their lethal "Desp" were too few in number to harm his people. The adventurers came out once in a while to kill a few Rijom and sell their pikes, but the two groups, Spurians and Rijom, lived in relative peace after the Siege.
To this day, however, the Rijom clan leaders search for a way to possess the power of the Jewel. It is well that they haven't found a way, for the Stone happens to be what keeps the Spur from falling through the roof of the cavern. Fate will tell.