The Elf That Met His Equal And More [Epilogue]: The Longships

King Polemeth, The Second, surveyed the entire landscape before him. Although South Market Town was a walled-up community, one could still see its urban planning from a distance. A mixture of red-bricked dwellings, and blue-cobbled stone buildings, dotted the old settlement inside its perimeter. Also there existed a collage of used and unused ship-docks, storehouses and government buildings, jutting up from the town's southern water-front district. Polemeth knew that the town he was attacking wouldn’t yield to his forces without a fight, which was okay with him since he encamped—between the town and its salt flats—with a combined force of some 8,000 soldiers; and the town before him, he knew from reports, didn't have more than 3,000 defenders.
“So, does my majesty want this little town or not?” asked a dwarf, mounted on the camel next to the king’s more expensive looking version; he was trying to sound as diplomatic and neutral as he possibly could.
“I want this town, counselor Oronz,” the king said plainly. “I want to be able to destroy South Market Town from the face of the earth!” I also want to destroy the whole of Western Ruundra, the king thought. He figured he could do both all in good time.
“You have no shame, my lord. Elves and men built this town, yet you want to destroy it?” Oronz tried to sound sympathetic for the town but not patronizing to the king at the same time.
The king scoffed at the dwarf's remarks. “Shame is in the eye of the beholder, my excellent friend...” Polemeth readjusted the painful seat on his royal camel. He stared at the docks with much yearning. “I want that town!”
The dwarf smiled gently and wondered: What do you really want this far west? Do you want to revenge yourself on the people who are enemies to your kingdom? Or do you simply want to control the pathetic trade routes over here? Either way, the Grundaarian King’s entire mission sounded savage and blood-thirsty to Oronz.
“Attack them!” ordered the king.
The dwarf, who was about to say something in protest, decided better against it; although, he still believed that the battle strategy Polemeth was banking on looked more like a botch instead of an expedient use of military might. However, if the town could be taken, it would mean the fair share of the town’s main treasury deposit, located inside Duke Hatter’s palace; that, of course, was the only reason the dwarven clan leader came on this wicked (but possibly lucrative) adventure after all.
Oronz leaned upright on his bright, golden-brown saddle and then waved his battle flag high in the air—which was the dwarven flag of clan Bronze and Gold. An army of some 1,000 dwarves, all on camel back, and stationed behind the dwarf advisor, raised their spears high in the air, and gave a dwarven grunt salute to their clan leader. “Aaruu-ugh!” they all yelled in unison.
Each dwarf warrior—in ordered ranks—rode his camel in line formation until he advanced ahead of Polemeth. Then all of the dwarves formed into a giant wedge formation, in groups of 100 each (with spears raised), and rode towards the docks with great speed.
“Fire the trebuchets!” yelled the king.
This time the king’s squire, who was mounted on the opposite side of Oronz, raised a red flag into the air in a circular motion. Behind the army, and stationed in the rear, about eight giant sized wooden catapults, designed by some of the best wood-workers in all of Grundaar, fired away at the eastern gate. The results were nightmarish and devastating. The loud, exploding projectiles created a huge swath across the town's eastern wall, causing a big opening (the size of ten wagon lengths) into South Market Town.
“Now don’t forget the infantry!” Polemeth voiced, as he realized that the tricky part of the attack was about to begin; which would make or break the taking of the town by storm.
The squire raised up a new blue flag this time, and waved it three times in the air.
Around 7,000 Grundaarian infantry drew swords, running straight past the flanks of the king, as fast as their feet could carry them, towards the leveled section of wall.
Then suddenly, what looked like a force of about 3,000 town defenders, came out from behind the demolished wall, and brandishing their bows, began firing arrows into the ranks of the approaching Grundaar foot soldiers. The Grundaarian infantry were stopped in their tracks and began to kneel down and lock their shields together.
Duke Hatter's men, elated by their apparent success, drew swords and charged the Grundaarians.
This was the next sign of battle that both the king and the dwarf were hopefully waiting to see. The king didn’t have anymore patience. “Now, Oronz, now!”
The dwarf took hold of his brass horn, that was tied to his saddle, and made four successive blows.
All of the dwarven camel warriors in the distance heard the planned signal, and they all quickly headed back towards the eastern wall's parade grounds and away from the docks. They charged into the gap between the Duke's advancing army and the eastern wall and attacked the South Market Town army from behind.
Then the Grundaarian infantry got up from behind their shields and attacked Duke Hatter’s forces. The Duke's forces were now confused as to who they should turn to fight. About a few minutes later, the rest of the Duke’s men—and there were many still alive—dropped their weapons with desperate pleas not to be slaughtered.
The fighting had ended.
“It’s all over now,” commented Oronz.
“I know,” replied the king. "I know, Oronz..." He looked at his dwarven ally rather suspiciously. “What exactly did you want for today’s catch?”
“Half the coin in the town!” the dwarven clan leader said, yet he realized those riches were much sought after by the king as well.
Polemeth without hesitation replied: “You have got your gold....”

* * * * * * * *

Duke Hatter’s audience chamber—located in his palace complex—was already filled with a portion of King Polemeth’s battle hardened troops. Both king and dwarf entered the audience chamber looking around. The king was very angry at what he saw. “I thought I told you cavalry officers to put Duke Hatter on a prisoner wagon escort back to Grundaar?”
The senior Grundaarian officer in the room, who was standing by the tied up Duke and his throne, promptly saluted King Polemeth and spoke in due haste, “Sire, I am sorry for the delay, but it seems that the duke here is not being forthcoming as to the location of the treasury's key.”
The king was about to say something angrily when Oronz tugged at the king’s arm from behind. “Excuse me my king… we dwarves possess wise skills at this sort of thing. If only you would allow me to accompany you to the vault. I have a device that might prove useful.” The dwarf took out what looked to be a medium-sized silver key from his shirt pocket.
The king was delighted to see the silver key and told the dwarf to lead on. Polemeth pointed to the north and said: “I have been informed that the vault is just north of this room.”
Before the king left the room to follow Oronz, however, he looked over his right shoulder and said to the senior officer in charge of Duke Hatter, “Make sure the Duke is kept tied up. If this doesn’t work, I want to ask him some questions of my own....”
King Polemeth (and several junior officers in his train) walked with Oronz further into Duke Hatter’s palace until they came to the most central area of the complex where there existed a vault at its north east side.
The vault door was secured by what looked to be a gigantic two foot wide silver metallic lock. “Try it,” Polemeth told one of his men.
The Grundaarian officer tried to move the lock and the door but to no avail. “It’s stuck, your majesty.”
“If you would permit me, my king....” gestured Oronz respectfully.
“You are permitted!” said the king.
The dwarf adjusted his silver key in his hands, and then stuck its front end into the vault’s large lock. He shook the key around a little bit.
It opened the lock easily to the shock of every human being in the room.
“You dwarves amaze me all the time,” commented King Polemeth, who was hard to impress.
The rest of the king’s men helped the dwarf open the large door that led to the vault. A large amount of gold and silver could now be seen inside.
“There must be several million dollars worth of coin in that vault!” voiced one of the king’s men.
King Polemeth (The Second) hesitated then remarked: “This is no average bank vault. All the coin in here was robbed by Duke Hatter’s men from many caravan traders from Grundaar to Grynhall Forest. It should be given back to those caravan traders and business men of Grundaar....”
“And how shall I ever cover my losses concerning this little war we just fought?” asked the dwarf, who seemed somewhat vexed.
“It’s simple,” reasoned Polemeth. “You and your dwarven allies can go to the main trading-houses, near the docks, and take all of their goods—even all of the coin. That should compensate you.”
The dwarf stroked his beard with pleasure. “That should more than compensate me! Thank you, my king. By the way… what exactly will be your compensation since most of the trading vessels have weighed anchor at our approach?”
Should I tell the dwarf? King Polemeth thought it wasn’t very prudent to do so. Then the king decided that he should for the sake of his honor and pride. “I want the docks, the shipyards and the triremes that are under construction... I want revenge, Oronz... I want revenge for what they did to my people!”
“Revenge on who?” asked the perplexed dwarf.
Forgetting all noble restraint, the king angrily blurted out: “I want to destroy the town of Zanzabar!”

* * * * * * * *

The Senate-House, of Zanzabar, was open for twelve hours each day. If the morning or night was too dark, the politicians of Zanzabar were (for the most part) locked up in their homes. It was much too dangerous, inside certain towns of Ruundra, to be outside without any sunlight. Usually the worst towns, to be out and about in, were those towns with the highest population counts. Zanzabar was no exception. The only truly active town servants at night were Zanzabar’s town guard. These men were instructed in seeing that the laws were obeyed wherever they happened to be; they were also the entire makeup of Zanzabar’s military and police forces. It was Zanzabar’s senators who wrote up and discussed which laws should be obeyed. These laws were not to be taken for granted, at any time of the day, especially when in the presence of a town guardsman.
To be made a senator of Zanzabar, one first had to be elected to be a tribune by the general population, or one could be elected by the nobles as an ‘orator’ or person of worldly necessity. Both Dundlebraak and Kuwer Troddleblog were both elected by the Zanzabar nobility to be senators because of necessity. Plus, even though Kuwer was once allowed to wear the Senate-House’s legislative robe, before he became a senator, he was only allowed to wear the cloak, on that occasion, because of the necessary role he filled.
And although Kuwer and Dundlebraak were not elected by the people, that didn’t mean their advice was not welcome among such an eloquent grouping of unicameral members. At this particular point in time, the roughly 113 members (that comprised the Senate-House) were in a fierce debate as to the future security and direction of their very own home town.
Consul Zin, the house-speaker of the month, rapped his gavel eight times on the desk in front of him and called for order and silence. “The next person I call forward to speak on this subject is our very own hero and long time native of Zanzabar: the illustrious Senator Troddleblog.”
Senator Dundlebraak smiled at Kuwer, winked at him, and gave him a thumb’s up to proceed.
Kuwer stood up and turned towards the house speaker as he adjusted his robe. “Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your consideration for a political new man like myself.” Kuwer was trying to remember exactly what he was going to say next, then he suddenly remembered. “It seems that there are many of you in this Senate-House who do not believe in financing a strong navy. It seems you think that the next attack from a foreign power will be coming form a landwards direction, as if a strong navy is not needed in a desperate time like now--“
At this, the opposite tribune faction-leader, who was a moderate, and an older politically seasoned senator, by the name of Warren Trader, rudely interrupted Kuwer and shouted for him to stand down. “We, the senate, have had enough of your delusions of phantom navies from the east! And of great invasions from across the sea! We should be rebuilding our walls expediently. We don’t know if Grundaar is amassing a land army to come and wipe us off the face of the earth....“
“Senator Trader!” interrupted Kuwer, who was now having a hard time shifting the comfortable, but heavy, red-robe that he was in. “I only ask that you have the patience to listen to my future proposals before butting heads with me with your rubbish! Are we now weaker in our naval power when compared with our larger army and reserves? Without a large navy how are we to stop a two pronged attack on our forces from both the land and sea? How are we to link up with Zanzabar’s citizens who live on the archipelagos off our coast? Are you proposing to waste all of our funds and manpower in building a wall were none is needed here? This is complete madness in my book! A naval force has the dynamic ability to slip behind enemy lines and disrupt—“
Consul Zin, raised his hand to show Kuwer that he wanted to interrupt. “We have been over this many times in the past, Senator Troddleblog. What I and the rest of this high council would like to know is how in Ruundra's name are you proposing to pay for a fleet of naval ships?”
“It’s very simple,” replied Kuwer. “We must allow all our shipwrights (who are willing to build us a fleet of warships at a low price) to be allowed the exemption of taxes on all of their businesses, trading, and properties for the entire time they are contracting such said ships. And for manpower, we must use the town guard to help build those ships.”
This brought an uproar by the majority of conservatives in the Senate-House.
Senator Trader shot out at Kuwer with alacrity, “Those funds you mentioned our town needs to help maintain its guard which are the only reliable troops Zanzabar will be able to rely upon if we were to be attacked from out of nowhere—“
“It’s all very clear,” voiced Kuwer, very vexed, “that one-third of the town guard could be used to build the naval warships, while the other two-thirds could remain at their station! And that these could be rotated with each new season!”
“Preposterous!” shouted Warren, who felt that Kuwer was sucking all of the sane air out of the room, and replacing it with some kind of gaseous poison. “Your wreckless type of legislation will never be supported by the people who....“
He was about to speak further when a young lad, who was one of the Senate-House couriers, bursted through the large oak doors, at the only entrance and exit to the Senate-House's main hall.
“What do you want, my boy?” asked house-speaker Zin.
The boy was trying hard to catch his voice as he spoke out. “The Grundaarians have captured South Market Town....”
“See, I knew this was going to happen!” shouted a most jubilant Senator Trader.
Another senator chortled in the background.
“Wait! That’s not all!” cried the boy.
“What else is there?” a senator asked.
The boy looked like he was about to collapse from exhaustion. “They have a navy traveling along the coast....”
Senator Trader closed his eyes in complete terror as he took in the boy’s last few words. The rest of the senators were like-wise stunned.
There was a long silence in the room.
Then Senator Dundlebraak stood up and placed his hand on Kuwer’s right shoulder saying, “Well, Kuwer, I think we, and everyone else in this Senate-House, are all done with our political careers, come rain or shine....”
“Such comments are now platitudes,” replied Kuwer, as he smiled back at Dundlebraak swiftly, yet he quickly frowned at all of the other senators; while trying to regain his composure.

* * * * * * * *

Now outranking the senators of the town of Zanzabar, both Consul Kuwer Troddleblog and Consul Dundlebraak, the saviors of Zanzabar's past, had been given enough duties to keep both elf and man very busy before the enemy's arrival. Consul Dundlebraak was now in charge of the northern defenses of Zanzabar, while Consul Kuwer had authority over the eastern and southern defense works.
Kuwer had the more immediate threat to take care of, while Dundlebraak (not expecting an attack from the north) was now faced with an enemy force that comprised at least 1,000 dwarves mounted on camel back on the plain above.
While he and his force stood, on the northern periphery of Zanzabar, Dundlebraak believed that it would be nearly impossible for 400 men and elves, of the town guard, to be able to successfully stop such a large force from crossing the watery-marsh beneath the elevated plain.
Sir Dorty, who was now the knight commander of the northern town guard, was the first one to speak. “Looks like we’re doomed—eh, consul?”
“Never give up, especially if you don't know what's going to happen next....” dictated Dundlebraak.
“Under these conditions though?”
The consul laughed at Dorty. “Never underestimate the ability of dwarves to compromise!”
“Why should they? We are outnumbered,” curtly spoke the knight commander.
“Wait!” replied Dundlebraak, as he pointed upwards, towards the middle of the dwarven army, which was on the plain above.
Riding quickly towards the opposite edge of the watery-marsh, from the elevated plain, came a noble-looking dwarf on camel-back waving a white flag in his right hand.
“I’m guessing he wants to negotiate....” Knight Commander Dorty voiced.
“See, what I told you,” mused Consul Dundlebraak. “Dwarven armies never attack men and elves just for fun!”
“I sure hope so,” spoke the knight commander. He looked to his left and motioned to a bunch of young pages standing nearby. “Send out the wooden barge!”
“Yes, sir,” replied the four pages in unison.
It seemed now, whether Dundlebraak liked it or not, he would now have to talk to this noble-looking dwarf. And like any man who has kept his wits, he, of course, liked it more than fighting a fight that couldn’t be won by attrition....

* * * * * * * *

Consul Kuwer Troddleblog, now in command of some 4,000 armed men and elves, surveyed the southeastern section of Zanzabar’s salt flats and the enemy position just south of those mineral caked areas. When he first arrived at this particular portion of the town’s defenses, Kuwer realized that he had much to do. It was about noon-time when the consul’s scouts informed him that the enemy fleet was approaching. The enemy fleet, comprised of some forty triremes and some ten supply-galleys, beached some twenty ships, ten miles from the town’s southern defense perimeter and unloaded some 2,000 Grundaarian soldiers. After unloading the soldiers, the beached fleet rowed back out to sea and joined the rest of the fleet. Both the fleet and the soldiers on land then proceeded northwest along the coast in a type of cooperative-support formation. Kuwer thought it was an ingenious move by the Grundaarians; he knew that the Grundaarian leader was being cautious this time, just so no elite soldier pulled the same sort of trick on his forces which happened to the Grundaarian's previous king.
“This looks tricky,” commented speaker of the senate, Consul Zin.
“It may look tricky,” replied Consul Kuwer, who was feeling a bit nervous, standing on the high ground next to Consul Zin. “But it is a whole other ball game when a town of Western Ruundra is depending on you to keep their citizens alive!”
“I hope you know what you’re doing....”
“Me too!” rejoined Consul Troddleblog.
Looking off in the distance, with his right hand as a sort of visor, Consul Kuwer didn’t think his troop of 4,000 men (and elves) were a match for the Grundaarians. He estimated that their was at least another 4,000 men on those ships waiting for orders to debark on the Zanzabar beach.
Kuwer facing his soldiers, who were waiting patiently before him, began. “All of you elves and men in formation! Zanzabar warriors of stealth and cunning! Here we make our stand today! As you know, the enemy is approaching us over sandy turf. That means he will be more tired after approaching our positions than it will be for us to wait here as he comes...
“One, however, must have the element of surprise in the form of a shock attack. We will achieve this only by charging the enemy when he is about one hundred yards away. We dare not run too far on the sand, or our tired out bodies will be in no shape to confront those forces before us.
“Now attention! About face, and prepare to defend Zanzabar!”
The town guard responded with alacrity, gave a loud Hoo-argh! in reply, and then turned some 180 degrees where they were standing. Every soldier of Zanzabar held his buckler to his chest, and kept his spear erected at a perpendicular angle in front of him. After a salute from Kuwer, Consul Zin walked down the sand dune, marched in front of the army, then started to open up the ranks of the men; positioning them in the right attack formation for the oncoming enemy.
Consul Kuwer was trying to psych himself out when he heard suddenly something approaching from behind him. Looking behind, he saw Consul Dundlebraak on camel back, with what looked like a large aristocratic looking dwarf in the front seat.
“Kuwer!” yelled out Dundlebraak.
“What is it governor? I’m busy with a battle here....”
“I told you to stop calling me governor!” Dundlebraak was vexed at the previous title being mentioned. He jumped off the camel and helped the dwarf to the ground. “You know I despise that past title!”
“Sorry Dundlebraak, I almost forgot…”
“Never mind that!” Dundlebraak said, as he and the dwarf walked over to Kuwer. “This is General Oronz, of the dwarf clan Bronze and Gold…”
Kuwer shaked Oronz’s pudgy hand briskly before saying to him, “Unless you have an army to help supplement my forces here, General Oronz, I’m afraid I will have to be brief in my pleasantries.”
Ornoz tilted his head sideways and eyed Kuwer in a rather puzzled way. “That is not exactly what I had in mind, Consul... However, I can still help you with your little battle here....”
“How so?” enquired Kuwer, as he turned around and saw the enemy fleet was no more than three miles away: which was stoically heading straight for the Zanzabar town guard.
“He can really help out!” Dundlebraak gestured to Kuwer rather insistently. “All you have to do is agree with him on a certain issue....”
“What do you want?” Kuwer wondered, as he turned around to face Oronz and Dundlebraak again.
“I want the key to an underground treasury vault, located beneath the library of Grynhall Town,” Oronz responded, trying to choose his words carefully.
Kuwer was puzzled. “You are telling me that you want the key to some vault located under the library of Grynhall Town? I didn’t even know that there was a vault there until now!”
Kuwer was just about to say something else, yet Ornoz cut him off with a gesture of his hand. “Consul Kuwer Troddleblog, it seems that you have been missing the point of this entire meeting between the two of us, and our dear friend Consul Dundlebraak. It seems that I am not ready to risk the lives of my fellow dwarves in any sort of engagement with the king. However, some mountain men from the northwest are willing to risk their lives instead. That is if you are willing to give them the key to the large metallic vault located under Grynhall Town. Consul Dundlebraak has told me that he and you have dictatorial authority over the entire town of Zanzabar, as consuls, and that you two could broker this deal if you both agreed to it. It seems that the key is kept locked up in a safe in the Zanzabar Senate-House. Well, what do you say about that?”
Dundlebraak smiled at Kuwer and winked at him. “You should really take him up on such a deal, Kuwer… I have already agreed to it!”
Kuwer took several deep breaths as he looked at the approaching Grundaarian army and fleet, compared with his meager force of infantry, and at the smiling dwarf (and man) who both looked somewhat mischievous in appearance. He studied the dwarf then questioned him. "I thought you dwarves had an easy task at opening 'hard-to-open' locks?"
"This giant, complex lock in particular seems to be beyond any of our skills. Believe me, I have tried!"
“I agree then,” Kuwer said. He looked at the dwarf rather hopelessly. “What did you have in mind?”
Troddleblog became even more worried when Dundlebraak started to giggle and cough.
“What are we going to do,” commented Kuwer, “laugh the Grundaarians to death?”
Kuwer seemed to be growing even more and more tired of Dundlebraak's game.
“Watch this!” the dwarf said loudly, walking back towards the camel in what seemed to Kuwer to be an awkward and surreal way.
Oronz took out a brass horn from his camel sack and blew loudly on it four times into the air. The noise was so loud that Kuwer and Dundlebraak had to put their fingers in their ears to try and deafen the impact. The camel, for some strange reason, seemed not to mind however.
After all this time, Consul Zin, who was busy with the formation of men, looked up with everybody in the ranks at what was happening on top of the sand dune.
“Are you two okay?” asked Zin, who was rather alarmed.
“Yes, I’m okay,” replied Kuwer.
“I’m okay!” hooted the smiling Dundlebraak.
“Me as well....” voiced a more than irritated Oronz, since it seemed that Consul Zin was still oblivious to the dwarf’s presence.
Consul Zin yelled out, “Why was that horn blown by him four times?”
“It was a signal!” Dundlebraak yelled back, a bit vexed.
“A signal for what?” asked Kuwer Troddleblog.
“For that!” replied the dwarf, pointing out towards the ocean.
In the distance, over eighty longships speeding out from between two islands, to the southwest, were now heading towards the Grundaarian fleet at full speed. The mountain men, inside their longships, blew out a cacophony of horn blasts, signaling they were heading into battle. And the captains of the Grundaarian fleet, seeing the longships from a distance, turned their ships around, and fled eastwards, as the mountain men gave chase. The Grundaarian soldiers, who felt a bit betrayed that they had been abandoned by the fleet, turned around and started running southeast along the coast. The town guard, as anyone can imagine it, cheered loudly at the retreat of the Grundaarian forces. And both Consuls Dundlebraak and Troddleblog, confessed to each other later that that moment was the happiest moment they had in all the time that they lived and fought for Zanzabar.
The Zanzabar town-guard, dropped their bucklers and spears, merrily raised the dwarf Oronz on their shoulders, calling him a jolly-good-fellow all the way to the Zanzabar Senate-House.
It was in the Zanzabar Senate-House that Oronz was given the Zanzabarian Medal of Valor and was made an honorary citizen of that town. Plus, the senate condoned the actions of the two consuls and officially approved of the deal they made with the dwarf Oronz, concerning the gold below the library of Grynhall Town. Consul Zin gave Oronz the key to the underground Grynhall vault, who in turn gave the key to the king of the mountain men.
After this, Oronz and his dwarven camel riders rode back to Eastern Ruundra and to their kingdom in the hills, of the clan holdings of Bronze and Gold, and enjoyed a great deal of peace in their kingdom for a long time. And even Zanzabar itself enjoyed a long spell of peace and prosperity, for quite some time, and its men and elves lived in Zanzabarian bliss for many years to come, before some new adventures and pressing needs headed their way. King Polemeth (The Second), returned to his kingdom, after making landfall in South Market Town, and never set foot again in Western Ruundra for the rest of his life: to the great relief of both men and elves.

The End.

The Elf That Met His Equal And More [Epilogue] by Michael Llenos

[Copyright Michael Llenos 2014]